This article describes, assesses, and explains the growing status of indigenous knowledges (IKs) in climate science and politics. Informed by a critical environmental perspective we review the literature on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), explore the contested nature of this concept, and identify the numerous epistemological obstacles to the appropriate and respectful inclusion of traditional ecological knowledge. While we believe that TEK and Western science are complementary, the inclusion of TEK in climate science and politics has been uneven. In support of our argument, we present a framework for assessment of degrees of inclusion of TEK and apply the framework to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), and the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). We find that the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol do not account for either indigenous peoples or indigenous people's knowledges. The AR4 includes some references to indigenous peoples but they are often buried in regional chapters. The ACIA is the most inclusive of all the documents examined and represents an important starting point for the inclusion of IKs. Based on the findings of our assessment, we conclude with recommendations for moving forward with greater inclusion of IKs. WIREs Clim Change 2011 DOI: 10.1002/wcc.185
For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
The word knowledges is used specifically to recognize the variation and diversity of types of knowledges held by indigenous peoples the world over. This is to convey that there is no one overriding ‘knowledge system’ found among all indigenous peoples; that their knowledges are a reflection of each unique ecosystem and individual experiences within those ecosystems. This word usage is also not uncommon within the Indigenous Studies or Women's Studies literature.