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Indigenous, local input key in fighting Pacific climate change, experts say

Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands need solutions to climate change now, and that can’t happen without centering local and indigenous knowledge, according to researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa who contributed to the latest U.S. National Climate Assesment.

Climate change is affecting not just the ecosystem but even access to clean water and healthy food, the scholars said in a UH news release.

“Climate change continues to threaten things we care about,” said Abby Frazier, a UH affiliate faculty member, an assistant professor at Clark University, and the lead author of the report’s chapter on Hawaiʻi and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands.

“As the devastating hurricane-fueled wildfires on Maui and Typhoon Mawar in Guam made clear, when communities are already hurting from stressors like COVID-19, extreme weather can multiply harms,” she said.

On the flip side, cutting emissions and preparing for new extremes not only mitigates the effects of climate change but also helps build resilence and sustainable growth in local communities, the researchers said, noting: “Indigenous Peoples and their knowledge systems are central to the resilience of island communities amidst the changing climate.”

The assessment, released by the Biden Administration this week, analyzes the impact of climate change across the United States.

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