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  • Weather, Climate, and Society x
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Alison M. Meadow, Daniel B. Ferguson, Zack Guido, Alexandra Horangic, Gigi Owen, and Tamara Wall

Abstract

Coproduction of knowledge is believed to be an effective way to produce usable climate science knowledge through a process of collaboration between scientists and decision makers. While the general principles of coproduction—establishing long-term relationships between scientists and stakeholders, ensuring two-way communication between both groups, and keeping the focus on the production of usable science—are well understood, the mechanisms for achieving those goals have been discussed less. It is proposed here that a more deliberate approach to building the relationships and communication channels between scientists and stakeholders will yield better outcomes. The authors present five approaches to collaborative research that can be used to structure a coproduction process that each suit different types of research or management questions, decision-making contexts, and resources and skills available to contribute to the process of engagement. By using established collaborative research approaches scientists can be more effective in learning from stakeholders, can be more confident when engaging with stakeholders because there are guideposts to follow, and can assess both the process and outcomes of collaborative projects, which will help the whole community of stakeholder-engaged climate-scientists learn about coproduction of knowledge.

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Valeria Hernandez, Vincent Moron, Florencia Fossa Riglos, and Eugenia Muzi

Abstract

Farmers’ perceptions of climate variability is compared with the sensitivity of observed yields for wheat, maize, soybean, and sunflower crops to interannual and intra-annual climate variability in two districts (Junín and San Justo) in central Argentina from the 1970s. A recent transition occurred here between mixed crop and livestock farming to a more specialized system, dominated by transgenic soybean combined with glyphosate. According to the ethnographic fieldwork, farmers ranked drought first and flood second as the main adverse climate factors in both districts. Overall, the farmers’ representations fit rather well with the observed relationships between interannual variability of yields and rainfall, especially in Junín. The adverse impact of long-lasting dry spells, especially during the first half of the crop cycle, is usually combined with the more linear impact of large rainfall amounts (anomalously positive/negative rainfall amounts associated with anomalously positive/negative yields) during the second half of the crop cycle. This relationship is strong for soybeans, similarly large for maize, far weaker for wheat, and reversed for sunflower, which is the only crop that benefits, on average, from anomalously low rainfall amounts at a specific stage of the crop cycle. The adverse effect of flood on soybeans and maize seems less phase-locked and more diluted across the crop cycle. This paper presents the argument that climate and society have a complex relationship, requiring an integrated analysis of the social context, people’s perceptions of climate, and scientific climate knowledge. The concept of “climate social significance” is proposed in order to highlight the strategies implemented by different socioproductive groups to address adverse climate events.

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Savin S. Chand, Lynda E. Chambers, Mike Waiwai, Philip Malsale, and Elisabeth Thompson

Abstract

Indigenous people in Pacific Island countries (PICs) often use their knowledge of the environment, acquired through generations of holistic observational practices and experimental learning, to make meteorological forecasts. Such knowledge systems are now recognized by several institutions, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as an important participatory forecast approach for decision making, particularly at a farm level. In this article, the authors show that indigenous knowledge of weather and seasonal climate forecasting is a crucial component of a potential strategy for making farming-related decisions and reducing vulnerability to environmental hazards.

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Peter Rudiak-Gould

Abstract

Can the phenomenon called “global climate change” be witnessed firsthand with the naked senses? The question provokes sharply divergent answers from different individuals and ideational communities. Physical scientists and experimental psychologists tend to regard climate change as inherently undetectable to the lay observer, while others, such as anthropologists, indigenous advocates, and environmentally inclined Western citizens, often claim that the phenomenon is not only visible in principle but is indeed already being seen. A third understanding of the visibility of climate change is held by some scholars who portray climate change as invisible at the outset but capable of being made visible via communication tactics such as the miner’s canary. This paper queries the motivations for and consequences of these divergent answers to a deceptively simple question, ultimately suggesting that the dispute between climate change “visibilism” and “invisibilism” is not scientific so much as political, being a proxy war for a larger debate on scientific versus lay knowledge and the role of expertise in democratic society.

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L. Jen Shaffer and Leocadia Naiene

Abstract

People construct mental models of local climate change based on their observations and experiences of past climate events and changes. These mental models offer critical insight into locally important factors that trigger responses to new climate conditions and can be used to ground-truth regional climate models. In this paper, the authors explore mental models of changes to local climate patterns and climate-associated environmental changes over the past 45 years (1963–2008) in two rural communities in Matutúine District, Mozambique. Interview results are compared to data from a regional weather station. Residents discuss temperature increases, short-term and long-term precipitation changes, and altered seasonal timing. Measurable climate change in this region includes increasing temperatures and more erratic rainfall leading to drought and altered season timing. The climate-associated environmental changes residents observed draw attention to links between local livelihood practices and climate, as well as emphasize changes that would not necessarily appear in regional climate models. Such changes include reduced crop and wild fruit production, fewer cattle, variable forest size, increased wildfires and elephant conflict, drying up of water sources, poor health, and cultural change. Differences between adjacent communities highlight the potential interaction of landscape and vegetation variability, gender, and livelihoods in observations and experiences of climate change and demonstrate how mental models can provide insight into local ecological patterns and processes.

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Susan A. Crate

Abstract

This article explores how researchers can apply social science methods and theoretical frames to capture how place-based communities are perceiving and responding to the immediate effects of global climate change. The study focuses on research with Viliui Sakha—native horse and cattle breeders of northeastern Siberia, Russia, who are increasingly challenged by one of global climate change’s most prevalent effects: altered water regimes. By applying the theoretical framework of political ecology, the article shows how researchers can better understand how affected peoples have, in this case, “water in mind” via their histories, cosmologies, and management practices of water. Such awareness can inform research activities and findings, facilitate effective adaptation, and, ultimately, affect policy. Given the widespread emphasis on adaptation, including the urgent need for, increasing interest in, and funding support for transdisciplinary research projects on adaptation, and the facilitative role researchers and policymakers can play in adaptation, this move to understanding and integrating a population’s shifting perceptions—in this case, of water in mind—into research is fundamental.

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Chie Sakakibara

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This article explores the interface of climate change and society in a circumpolar context, particularly experienced among the Iñupiaq people (Iñupiat) of Arctic Alaska. The Iñupiat call themselves the “People of the Whales,” and their physical and spiritual survival is based on their cultural relationship with bowhead whales. Historically the broader indigenous identity, spawned through their activism, has served to connect disparate communities and helped revitalize cultural traditions. Indigenous Arctic organizations such as the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC) are currently building upon a strong success record of their past to confront the environmental problems of their future. Employing what the author calls muktuk politics—a culturally salient reference to the bowhead whale skin and the underlying blubber—the Iñupiaq have revitalized their cultural identity by participating in international debates on climate change, whaling, and human rights.

Currently, the ICC and the AEWC identify Arctic climate change and its impact on human rights as their most important topics. The Iñupiat relationship with the land, ocean, and animals are affected by a number of elements including severe weather, climate and environmental changes, and globalization. To the Iñupiat, their current problems are different than those of the past, but they also understand that as long as there are bowhead whales they can subsist and thrive, and this is their goal. This new form of muktuk politics seeks to bring their current challenges to a wider audience by relying on more recent political experiences.

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Karen Pennesi

Abstract

This study illustrates the need to consider the multiple interpretations and experiences that influence how climate forecasts are evaluated in local contexts when assessing how useful forecasts can be for increasing the resilience of rural communities. Video clips of predictions made by scientific and traditional forecasters were shown in interviews and focus groups to elicit explanations for why the predictions are sometimes judged to be inaccurate, not useful, or inappropriately communicated by different sectors of the rural population in Ceará, Northeast Brazil. Results indicate that climate forecasts are not simply a decision-making tool that provides information in a one-way transfer from forecaster to user. The meanings and values of predictions are jointly created by both forecasters and their audiences. Predictions and the discussions that surround them are also an important part of expressing social identities and ideas about how the world works. Ineffective predictions are explained here in terms of religious beliefs, environmental change, forecaster identity, interactional context, and cultural practices.

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Randy A. Peppler

Abstract

In September 1950, U.S. Senator Robert S. Kerr (D-Oklahoma) wrote to Indian leaders across the United States in order to “make some determination with regard to whether or not we are going to have an early winter and whether or not we may expect a hard winter.” Even though he had access to U.S. Weather Bureau predictions and other scientific data, Kerr and his administrative assistant, Ben Dwight, a member of the Choctaw Nation and its onetime Principal Chief, wrote that they “would like to know what some of the Indians in the various sections of the nation think about our coming winter probabilities.” Kerr and Dwight indicated they had a “high regard for the old Indian ways of determining such things—because they are practical and have always been able to make some very accurate predictions.” From 33 letters sent to tribes in 1950 (including 9 to tribes in Oklahoma) 3 responses were known to have been received; a follow-up letter-writing campaign in October 1951 was more fruitful, producing 8 known responses. This paper examines the tribal responses and explores the life and possible motivations of Senator Kerr, an influential man on the U.S. political stage during 1949–63, in seeking this information. This research is part of a broader field investigation that seeks to understand how Native Americans in Oklahoma conceptualize weather and climate, including traditional ways, and how their knowledge is helping to inform new efforts to farm sustainably and create food sovereignty.

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