North Carolina Sea Grant

March 18, 2020 | Chloe Tenn

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As in-person meetings have been canceled, online opportunities are gaining attention. For example, the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center’s Fourth National Climate Assessment Webinar Series will explore the impact of climate change on tribes and indigenous peoples. The session will be Wednesday, March 25 at noon.

It is the latest offering in a six-part series designed to facilitate access to the large amount of information synthesized in the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II (NCA4). This webinar will highlight key messages contained in the “Southeast, Tribes & Indigenous Peoples” and “U.S. Caribbean” chapters of the report, connecting viewers directly to elements of the report and to relevant research, publications and data.

Rachael Novak of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Casey Thornbrugh of the United South and Eastern Tribes will present the webinar, which will cover these key messages:

Climate change threatens Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and economies, including agriculture, hunting and gathering, fishing, forestry, energy, recreation, and tourism enterprises. Indigenous peoples’ economies rely on, but also face institutional barriers to, their self-determined management of water, land, other natural resources, and infrastructure that will be affected increasingly by changes in climate.

Indigenous health is based on interconnected social and ecological systems that are being disrupted by a changing climate. As these changes continue, the health of individuals and communities will be uniquely challenged by climate impacts to lands, waters, foods, and other plant and animal species. These impacts threaten sites, practices, and relationships with cultural, spiritual, or ceremonial importance that are foundational to Indigenous peoples’ cultural heritages, identities, and physical and mental health.

Many Indigenous peoples have been proactively identifying and addressing climate impacts; however, institutional barriers exist in the United States that severely limit their adaptive capacities. These barriers include limited access to traditional territory and resources and the limitations of existing policies, programs, and funding mechanisms in accounting for the unique conditions of Indigenous communities. Successful adaptation in Indigenous contexts relies on use of Indigenous knowledge, resilient and robust social systems and protocols, a commitment to principles of self-determination, and proactive efforts on the part of federal, state, and local governments to alleviate institutional barriers.

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Adapted from information from the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center.

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