A local focus

The local focus of the ACIA scientific report is prominent in chapters that also frequently use words such as cultural, adaptation, indigenous, social, politics, economic, and resources (see Box 6.2). Three of these chapters rely heavily on case studies and feature an active involvement of indigenous peoples. There thus appears to be a connection between indigenous peoples, the local scale, and social sciences. There are at least two potential drivers in this connection that should be discussed. First is that indigenous knowledge is often site-specific and thus local in its character, in contrast to modeling for example. In the ACIA process, there was a push to include indigenous observations, which may have strengthened the emphasis on the local compared to the IPCC, where indigenous knowledge is hardly referred to at all. A second explanation could be that a focus on indigenous people has provided a venue for scientific knowledge traditions with a local focus into the assessment process. Not only were indigenous peoples' organizations active in pushing for the inclusion of their perspectives, some of them were also active in recruiting authors from their existing networks. There are, for example, references in a protocol from the Assessment Steering Committee about asking aboriginal leaders for help in making connections at the International Arctic Social Science Association meeting.27 Not all of the social sciences are equally represented in the ACIA. Rather, the emphasis is on knowledge traditions that have taken an interest in indigenous cultures, e.g. anthropology, or have had experience of working with traditional ecological knowledge, e.g. in the management of natural resources. A third factor that further strengthened local and indigenous perspectives was the late addition of a chapter that brought a vulnerability perspective to the report.

To summarize, the dichotomy between global and local scale preferences seems to follow research traditions in different fields and could be a sign of new research fields, i.e. social sciences, with a local perspective, entering the knowledge production to a greater extent than in the IPCC. This interpretation is supported by the results from a principal component analysis where the polar chapter of IPCC's Working Group II report is more similar to the ACIA chapters that focus on the global scale and atmospheric science than to chapters with a more local scale preference and social science emphasis, see Box 6.3. This interpretation also matches the qualitative analysis of the primary knowledge base for each chapter.

The qualitative analysis also shows that the local also appears to be important in chapters with a strong biological focus (i.e. Chapter 7. Arctic Tundra and Polar Desert Ecosystems and Chapter 8. Freshwater Ecosystems and Fisheries). In these chapters the local scale is not as dominant, especially not in the chapter on tundra ecosystems and polar deserts, and is better described as part of a range of scales from local to regional and global. In fact, the chapter is organized to explicitly address dynamics at different spatial scales. In the freshwater ecosystem chapter, the inclusion of the local perspective was partly the result of the historic lack of international collaboration in this research field, which forced the authors to rely heavily on isolated case studies.28

27 Summary Report on the Seventh Assessment Steering Committee Meeting (ASC), 19-20 April 2001, Reykjavik, Iceland.

28 Interview Fred Wrona, November 11, 2004.

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