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WIREs Clim Change
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Local people's accounts of climate change: to what extent are they influenced by the media?

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Researchers using local and indigenous people's accounts of climate change in their scientific work often face scepticism regarding the value of such information. The critics' argument is that since local and indigenous people are often exposed to the global discourse on climate change, their observations and information may in fact be reproductions of science popularized through communication media. There are instances in which local people's accounts of climate change and impacts thereof may be influenced by how media frame and popularize scientific models and predictions. However, we propose several reasons why the influence of media reports and coverage of climate change is usually superficial. First, there are significant differences between the epistemologies employed by media and those of local people. Although media may be borrowing local environmental categories, they may be filling them with different content, leading to incoherence. Second, media accounts are often general and locally irrelevant, in contrast with the detailed local anchoring of the knowledge often held by people who rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. Their observations often rely on holistic ways of knowing their environments, integrating large numbers of variables, and the relationships between these. We propose that accounts based on such observations are probably not influenced by media framings and that uncovering their underlying ‘ways of knowing’ would provide valuable additional evidence in interdisciplinary studies of climate change. WIREs Clim Change 2013, 4:1–8. doi: 10.1002/wcc.199

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