Effective Climate Adaptation through Supporting Local Autonomy

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Effective Climate Adaptation through Supporting Local Autonomy

Local indigenous communities have lived off their lands for many years. They are fishers, hunters, and gatherers.

Their deep and intimate knowledge of their environment and surroundings makes them keenly sensitive to the changing climate, like extreme events becoming more frequent and intense and gradual sea-level rise.

They have adapted and lived with the changing environment throughout many generations, thus making them powerful initiators of climate adaptation.

The study published in Nature Climate Change titled, “Effective climate change adaptation means supporting community autonomy” explains that communities on the frontlines of climate change want to take the lead in choosing their own climate adaptation strategies.

Anne Pisor, one of the international researchers that authored the study, proposes a bottom-up approach to climate change adaptation where local communities lead the decision-making process.

Pisor explains, “Currently, most governments and other organizations involved in addressing climate change prefer to fund initiatives where decisions are made about what to do at a higher level, and then these decisions are passed down to local communities, like towns or neighbourhoods, to implement.”

She added that the issue with this is that what seems like an excellent strategy to these organizations may not actually work on the ground (Ferguson, 2022).

Authors argue that indigenous people should be enabled to choose their responses to climate change as they have been there for a long time.

The study looked into the adaptation strategies of some Indigenous communities in Southwest Madagascar and the Tlingit communities in Alaska and Western Canada.

For instance, local communities in Southwest Madagascar have used mobility, social connections, and diversified methods of food production in the last two millennia to adapt to climate change and while Tlingit communities have adapted to sea-level rise and the rapid movement of glaciers and ice-dam floods, which until today, as their leaders have pointed out, is still relevant.

The WVU Insider highlighted some of the takeaways from the study, which include:

  • Let indigenous communities decide and choose what climate adaptation strategies. They have been doing it for millennia and know what works and what does not.
  • Effective climate solutions are quick to implement, maximize benefits, and have minimal costs, but this doesn’t mean that local communities are adopting them. If they do, they can maintain them over time.
  • Communities would need the support of organizations and the government to develop potential climate solutions and modify them as needed. One of the ways is for governments to reduce constraints in the form of rules and bureaucracy and perhaps return the rights to their land and resources.
  • The article also mentions concepts like “insurance” to protect them from the consequences of failing climate adaptation solutions, risk pooling wherein people put money in and receive funds if climate adaptation fails, and implementation of a universal income.
  • Lastly, community adaption should be funded according to research authors.

All these steps can help increase the effectiveness of community-initiated climate adaptation in reducing risk, how long they will be implemented, and promoting equity when it comes to who decides what actions to take.

Read the entire study by clicking on the link provided in the “Source” below.


Ferguson, W. (2022, March 21). A new approach to climate change adaptation. WSU Insider. Retrieved from https://news.wsu.edu/news/2022/03/21/a-new-approach-to-climate-change-adaptation/

Pisor, A.C., Basurto, X., Douglass, K.G. et al. Effective climate change adaptation means supporting community autonomy. Nat. Clim. Chang. 12, 213–215 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01303-x

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