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Painting Picture with Climate Change with Indigenous Stories

Researchers at Simon Fraser University have analyzed observations of temperature and rainfall from 92,000 indigenous and non-indigenous people in an effort to fill in knowledge gaps in our understanding of the Earth’s changing climate.

Interviews gathered in 137 countries for about 1,000 studies paint a picture of changing sea levels, species ranges and rainfall, according to lead author Valentina Savo of the university’s Hakai Institute.

Changes in the timing and nature of the seasons — affecting fishing, hunting, food gathering and crop production — were observed in about 70 per cent of participating communities, according to the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

By taking the observations made by so many people across so many studies, Savo builds a detailed body of evidence about changes in climate teased mainly from the knowledge of indigenous civilizations accumulated over generations by people who directly rely on the earth and oceans.

“We think about climate change as something that you graph or something that happens in the Arctic, but these are the experiences of real people seeing changes firsthand,” said Savo. “It’s not theoretical. When the timing changes about when to plant and harvest, where rainfall is now concentrated and intense, it’s very disruptive.”

The observations of indigenous people match well with conventional climate data and computer models, but much of the information gathered comes from parts of the world not well monitored by scientists.

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