The Project

Credit: Vincent Porcher

LICCI – Local Indicators of Climate Change Impacts. The Contribution of Local Knowledge to Climate Change Research is an ERC funded project that aims to bring insights from indigenous and local knowledge to climate research.

In the quest to better understand local climate change impacts on physical, biological, and socioeconomic systems and how such impacts are locally perceived, scientists are challenged by the scarcity of grounded data, which has resulted in a call for exploring new data sources. People with a long history of interaction with the environment have developed complex knowledge systems that allow them to detect local impacts of climatic variability, but these insights are absent in climate change research and policy fora. The LICCI project aims to bring insights from local knowledge systems to climate research by

  1. providing data on local perceptions of climate change impacts on climatic (e.g. rainfall patterns change), physical (e.g., shrinking glaciers), biological (e.g., phenological changes), and socioeconomic systems (e.g., crop failure due to rainfall patterns change), and
  2. testing hypotheses on the global spatial, socioeconomic and demographic distribution of local climate change impacts indicators.

The LICCI project started in June 2018 and will end in May 2023.

Background

Climate change research

There is evidence that climate change influences many physical and biological systems, with direct effects on local livelihoods and cultures. Much of this evidence comes from natural sciences and mostly relies on large-scale records of weather and climate and the use of modelling techniques to describe climate change in data deficient regions.

However, these data is too coarse, for which local climate change impacts, particularly in socioeconomic systems, remain poorly understood. Social scientists argue that this is so, not only because global models are too coarse to capture the specificities of local climate change impacts, but also because climate change impacts largely depend on people´s local conditions, which can not be captured by global models.

Indigenous and local knowledge contributions

Indigenous and local knowledge is an unexplored data source with untapped potential to contribute to our understanding of local climate change impacts. Indigenous peoples and local communities with a long history of interaction with their environment have developed complex knowledge systems that allow them to detect not only changes in local weather and climatic variability, but also the direct effects of such changes in the physical and the biological systems on which they depend.

As world coverage of weather stations leaves large areas of the world with poor, incomplete, or unreliable weather records, information from Indigenous and local knowledge in these areas would be highly valuable.  However, a review of the literature on local indicators of climate change impacts suggest that this information is also spatially biased, concentrating on African tropical regions, Polar Regions, and the Himalayan range, for which this literature would be better positioned to contribute to global debates once these biases are addressed. See full article

Global distribution of weather stations based on the CRUTEM 4.6.0.0 dataset and locations of the reviewed studies on LICCIs. Credit: LICCI project.


Several bioclimatic indicators used by the Tsimane’ hunter-gatherers to forecast changes in the local weather. Credit: Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares

Beyond their potential to detect physical and biological changes, insights from local knowledge systems can improve our understanding of how climate change impacts local socioeconomic systems, as they provide valuable information on how local livelihoods are affected by climate change impacts. Given that perceptions of changes influence how people respond to them, such information could contribute to the development of appropriate adaptation and mitigation policies.

For example, research among the Tsimane’, an Amazonian hunter-horticulturalist society, shows that local observations of climatic changes (i.e., rainfall and temperature) are robustly associated with local station data and that both sources of data are in dissonance with the spatially-interpolated gridded climate data that are used to describe past or project future climate change. See full article

A Case Study
Sierra Nevada, Spain – Peasants, shepherds and traditional water management
Local indicators of climate change impacts in Sierra Nevada. Credit: David García del Amo

The pilot testing of the LICCI project has been done in Sierra Nevada, a mountain range in the southeast of Spain where traditional water management practices have played an important role in shaping the landscape. We conducted a total of 240 surveys with farmers and shepherds living in the area. The main local indicators of climate change impacts reported by respondents related to the lack of water and the loss of traditional irrigation systems, although we found important differences in the intensity of the impacts perceived in different areas and across livelihood strategies. These findings support the idea that climate change impacts are more nuanced than what can be predicted by regional climate models. Read more

Objectives

The main objective of this research project is to show the potential of Indigenous and local knowledge systems to improve our understanding of local climate change impacts on physical, biological, and socioeconomic systems. The specific aims are:

  • To inventory local indicators of climate change on physical and biological systems;
  • To identify spatial patterns in the local indicators of climate change impacts reported and socioeconomic and demographic patterns in the perceived impacts;
  • To develop a standardized protocol for the collection of data on local indicators of climate change and their perceived impacts;
  • To train a cadre of researchers able to bring local insights to climate change research in an inclusive (e.g., using participatory methods) and open manner (e.g., making accessible protocols, data, and results);
  • To create a reference data-repository with primary information on local indicators of climate change available for different uses (e.g., design of adaptation policies, input to climate models);
  • To create a wide network of researchers, practitioners, and civil society interested in exploring how local knowledge systems contribute to our understanding of climate change impacts.

Methodology

Research will last five years (June 2018 – May 2023), split into three phases:

  1. Preparation (June 2018 – Nov. 2019): during this phase, the LICCI core team is collectively working on:
    • the development, test, and implementation of a systematic protocol for the collection of field data on local indicators and of climate change perceived impacts, and
    • the design and implementation of a web-based platform where citizens from anywhere in the world can contribute information on local indicators of climate change in physical and biological systems.
  2. Data collection (Dec. 2019 – Nov. 2021): during this phase, the LICCI core team will create and train a wide network composed of 40 partners (i.e., external Ph.D. students, early career scholars, or practitioners who share similar interests) who will collect data for this project in a full range of climatic regions. Call for application will be open on the 22nd of February. During this phase we will disseminate the web-based platform so people can enter data.
  3. Analysis and dissemination (Dec. 2021 – May 2023): During this phase, we will analyze the data and prepare it for dissemination in different fora. In addition to presenting results in research papers and scientific conferences, at the end of the project, we will also organize a one-day policy conference, where project results will be presented to an influential audience of leading researchers, academics, policy makers, NGOs and the media.

Impact

  • The inventory of local indicators of climate change impacts collected through this project will improve our understanding of the localized responses of the physical and biological systems to climate change.
  • Data on perceptions of climate change impacts will improve our understanding of the perceived impacts of climate change on local livelihoods, improving our understanding of the human dimensions of climate change. This will guide policies attempting to mitigate its immediate impacts.
  • The involvement of local communities and lay citizens in data collection holds the potential to increase local agency for adaptation.
  • The creation of a web-based platform that will be fed by researchers, practitioners, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, or other citizens who will contribute to this project data collection and who might – ultimately – form an observation network for the long-term monitoring of local indicators of climate change impacts.