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Links between media communication and local perceptions of climate change in an indigenous society

Abstract

Indigenous societies hold a great deal of ethnoclimatological knowledge that could potentially be of key importance for both climate change science and local adaptation; yet, we lack studies examining how such knowledge might be shaped by media communication. This study systematically investigates the interplay between local observations of climate change and the reception of media information amongst the Tsimane’, an indigenous society of Bolivian Amazonia where the scientific discourse of anthropogenic climate change has barely reached. Specifically, we conducted a Randomized Evaluation with a sample of 424 household heads in 12 villages to test to what degree local accounts of climate change are influenced by externally influenced awareness. We randomly assigned villages to a treatment and control group, conducted workshops on climate change with villages in the treatment group, and evaluated the effects of information dissemination on individual climate change perceptions. Results of this work suggest that providing climate change information through participatory workshops does not noticeably influence individual perceptions of climate change. Such findings stress the challenges involved in translating between local and scientific framings of climate change, and gives cause for concern about how to integrate indigenous peoples and local knowledge with global climate change policy debates.

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Acknowledgments

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC grant agreement nr. FP7-261971-LEK, and from a grant of the BBVA Foundation (IV Convocatoria de Ayudas a la Investigación en Ecología y Biología de la Conservación, BIOCON_06_106-07). M.F.M. and A.P. were also supported by the Academy of Finland (grant agreements nr. 263995 and 250444, respectively), and Á.F-LL received additional support from the Finnish Centre for International Mobility (CIMO). We thank the Tsimane’ who have so generously opened for us the doors of their houses and their world, the Gran Consejo Tsimane’ and CBIDSI for all their support, V. Cuata, S. Fraixedas, S. Huditz, P. Pache, M. Pache, and I.V. Sánchez for all their help during fieldwork, M. Guèze for cartographical assistance, and M. Cabeza, R. Delgado and D. Minkin for comments to a previous version of the article.

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Correspondence to Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares.

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Fernández-Llamazares, Á., Méndez-López, M.E., Díaz-Reviriego, I. et al. Links between media communication and local perceptions of climate change in an indigenous society. Climatic Change 131, 307–320 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1381-7

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Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Indigenous People
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Information Dissemination
  • Flood Frequency