BookPDF Available

ICSM CHC White Paper III: The Role of Cultural and Natural Heritage for Climate Action



Arguing that ‘the moment of the now’ calls for fresh, creative thinking in the search for solutions, this White Paper both explores the state of research at the intersection between culture, heritage and climate change, and makes a case for a set of approaches, perspectives and conversations that we need to have—or that we need to have in new ways. Taking a broad view of heritage as ‘the archive of accumulated human wisdom’, it explores both small-s solutions (immediate, techno-infrastructural fixes) and big-S Solutions (changes in values, behaviours and worldviews). First, it defines a ‘heritage perspective’ on climate change via four attributes: an orientation towards deep time; an orientation towards the future; an orientation towards local and Indigenous knowledge; and an orientation towards both practice and critical thinking. Then it presents a review of the relevant scientific and scholarly literatures, according to the scoping questions. Next, it presents eight heritage-focused case studies, each of which orients us towards solutions to the challenges of anthropogenic climate change. We need to consider an encompassing view of heritage, that draws from both the fields of heritage studies and heritage management. The archive of local and Indigenous knowledge and practice offers many potential solutions, but raises key questions around ethics, intellectual property and terms of engagement. Climate change itself needs to be understood as an historically situated phenomenon, that has involved and implicated populations and territories differently, especially across the Global North/ Global South divide. Recognizing this, it becomes imperative to foreground a climate justice perspective in the search for solutions. Experience suggests that science-based solutions are likely to be socially, economically, politically and culturally entangled. Social science and humanities-based approaches play a key role in allowing us to anticipate and understand such entanglements. Rather than being static and backward-looking, heritage is mobile, forward-looking and always in-the-making. Mobilising the affective power of heritage becomes a potentially powerful tool in organising for climate action—although this involves emphasising a different version of heritage, less concerned with national pasts and more with collective human endeavour. The creative arts play a key role in imagining viable futures, and in producing resonance, ‘believe-ability’ and hope. The political struggle around the climate emergency is the struggle for multilateralism, dialogue and cooperation, in the face of populist attempts to use a moment of historical anxiety for narrowly sectarian ends. From a heritage perspective, the question of relevance is: How do we mobilise the affective power of heritage in support of open, creative, and inclusive futures?
A White Paper commissioned for the International Co-Sponsored
Meeting on Culture, Heritage and Climate Change
© Main Copyright
Published under a Creative Commons license.
The contents, ideas and opinions expressed in this White Paper are those of the authors, do not
necessarily represent the view of the co-sponsors of this initiative (IPCC, UNESCO, ICOMOS).
IPCC co-sponsorship does not imply IPCC endorsement or approval of these proceedings or any
recommendations or conclusions contained herein. Neither the papers presented at the Workshop nor the
report of its proceedings have been subject to IPCC review.
Suggested citation:
Shepherd, N., Cohen, J.B., Carmen, W., Chundu, M., Ernsten, C., Guevara, O., Haas, F., Hussain, S.T., Riede,
F., Siders, A.R., Singh, C., Sithole, P., Troi, A. ICSM CHC White Paper III: The Role of Cultural and Natural
Heritage for Climate Action: Contribution of Solutions Group III to the International Co-Sponsored Meeting
on Culture, Heritage and Climate Change. Charenton-le-Pont & Paris, France: ICOMOS & ICSM CHC, 2022
© Maps, photos and illustrations as specified
Format: Online only
ISBN: 978-2-918086-73-4
This publication may be reproduced in whole or in part and in any form for educational or non-profit services
without special permission from the copyright holder, provided acknowledgement of the source is made.
ICOMOS and UNESCO representatives acknowledged here would appreciate being informed of any
publication that uses this publication as a source.
No use of this publication may be made for resale or any other commercial purpose whatsoever.
As co-chairs of the Scientific Steering Committee of the International Co-Sponsored Meeting on
Culture, Heritage, and Climate Change (ICSM CHC) we are delighted to write this foreword for this
important publication, and to congratulate the authors on their valuable exploration of the role of
cultural and natural heritage for climate action. This publication is one of three commissioned by the
ICSM CHC in early 2022 as a provocateur for attendees.
The proposal for the ICSM CHC was a response to growing calls for international attention to culture,
heritage, and climate change including by the Intergovernmental Committee -established under the
UNESCO 1972 Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage-,
which requested, already in 2016, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to
the World Heritage Committee to work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
with the objective of including a specific chapter on natural and cultural World Heritage in future IPCC
assessment reports.” These calls were a recognition that there exist significant gaps in understanding
of the many connections between culture and the human past and the modern phenomena of
climate change, as well as a need to advance the contributions of culture and heritage to climate
change mitigation and adaptation.
The proposal, first proposed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), was
agreed by the Co-Chairs of the Working Groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), endorsed by the IPCC Executive Committee in June 2020, and co-sponsorship confirmed by
the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in July 2020 with
which a collaborative concept note for the meeting was finalized by the Co-Chairs of the Scientific
Steering Committee. The ICSM CHC was held virtually over five days from 6 - 10 December 2021
bringing together approximately 100 participants from a wide range of backgrounds. The meeting
participants represented 40 countries across all six continents. 40% of the participants were from the
Global South and 61% of the participants were women. The participants included Climate Scientists,
Culture and cultural and natural heritage experts and practitioners, Natural Science experts and
practitioners and representatives from indigenous peoples and local communities.
During the ICSM CHC, participants discussed a wide range of topics including the systemic
connections of culture, heritage, and climate change, the roles of culture and heritage in
transformative change and alternative sustainable futures and, aided by this paper the role of cultural
and natural heritage for climate action. Themes within this topic included climate justice, impacts and
capacity building, and the power of heritage in critical thinking.
A draft of this paper was prepared by a diverse group of scholars and heritage practitioners from
around the world. This draft was shared with the ICSM CHC meeting participants and then revised by
the group following inputs from the meeting. As a provocation piece written to promote conversation
and debate, its contents intentionally reflect the views and opinions of the authors and do not
necessarily represent the view of the co-sponsors of the meeting. Attention to culture is an
indispensable enabling condition to transformative climate action and climate resilient sustainable
development. it is increasingly recognized that the lack of attention to culture can lead to poor
adaptation and inadequate mitigation outcomes. As the urgent need for effective, equitable climate
action becomes ever clearer, we hope this paper gains a wide audience and it makes an important
contribution to a topic that requires greater attention.
Dr Jyoti Hosgrahar (UNESCO, Paris)
Dr Will Megarry (ICOMOS, Paris)
Dr Debra Roberts (IPCC, South Africa)
Table of Contents
Foreword i
Table of Contents 1
List of Figures 3
Executive Summary 4
1. Introduction 6
1.1 Points of departure: ‘the moment of the now’ 6
1.2 A Heritage Perspective 7
2. Overview of Questions Addressed 9
3. Methods 11
4. Literature review 12
4.1. Natural and cultural heritage as resources for climate resilience and adaptation in recent IPCC
reports (in particular SR1.5C, SRCCL, and SROCC). 12
4.2 The capacity for natural and cultural heritage to serve as enablers of climate resilience and
adaptation, in published scientific literature external to IPCC reports 14
5. Case Studies 22
5.1 Climate change and California Indians: oaks, fire, and drought 22
5.2 River love, river heritage and river repair 24
5.3 Learning by doing: bringing climate change action into Colombia’s natural heritage sites
management 27
5.4 Jointly modelling past climate and social systems reveals the dynamics and costs of socio-
ecological transformations 30
5.5 Stewarding change with values, voices, and art 34
5.6 Rethinking vulnerability and adaptation to climate change as if peoples’ histories and
aspirations mattered 37
5.7 The heritage of meteorological IKS and its impact on climate change 40
5.8 Inspiring good practices: A database to trigger the energy-efficient renovation of historic
buildings 43
6. Talking points 45
6.1 Learning from Indigenous and local knowledge systems: Skills, technologies, land
management practices 45
6.2 Learning from Indigenous and local knowledge systems: Values, forms of relatedness,
ways of knowing 45
6.3 Transforming pedagogies: A curriculum for the Anthropocene 46
6.4 Mobilising the affective power of heritage 46
6.5 Producing socially and historically contextualised accounts of anthropogenic
climate change 47
6.6 Foregrounding a climate justice perspective 48
6.7 Imagining viable futures 48
6.8 Heritage as a resource for resilience and adaptation 49
6.9 Decolonising heritage and climate change research 49
6.10 Working across the different modalities of heritage 50
6.11 Narrowing the gap between science and society 51
7. Conclusion 53
References 54
Appendix 89
List of Figures
Figure 1. Temperature proxy records from the Eocene to beyond 2200.
Figure 2. Archives of nature and society
Executive Summary
Arguing that the moment of the nowcalls for fresh, creative thinking in the search for solutions, this
White Paper both explores the state of research at the intersection between culture, heritage and
climate change, and makes a case for a set of approaches, perspectives and conversations that we
need to haveor that we need to have in new ways. Taking a broad view of heritage as the archive of
accumulated human wisdom, it explores both small-s solutions (immediate, techno-infrastructural
fixes) and big-S Solutions (changes in values, behaviours and worldviews). First, it defines a heritage
perspective’ on climate change via four attributes: an orientation towards deep time; an orientation
towards the future; an orientation towards local and Indigenous knowledge; and an orientation
towards both practice and critical thinking. Then it presents a review of the relevant scientific and
scholarly literatures, according to the scoping questions. Next, it presents eight heritage-focused case
studies, each of which orients us towards solutions to the challenges of anthropogenic climate
We need to consider an encompassing view of heritage, that draws from both the fields of heritage
studies and heritage management. The archive of local and Indigenous knowledge and practice
offers many potential solutions, but raises key questions around ethics, intellectual property and
terms of engagement. Climate change itself needs to be understood as an historically situated
phenomenon, that has involved and implicated populations and territories differently, especially
across the Global North/ Global South divide. Recognizing this, it becomes imperative to foreground
a climate justice perspective in the search for solutions. Experience suggests that science-based
solutions are likely to be socially, economically, politically and culturally entangled. Social science and
humanities-based approaches play a key role in allowing us to anticipate and understand such
entanglements. Rather than being static and backward-looking, heritage is mobile, forward-looking
and always in-the-making. Mobilising the affective power of heritage becomes a potentially powerful
tool in organising for climate actionalthough this involves emphasising a different version of
heritage, less concerned with national pasts and more with collective human endeavour. The creative
arts play a key role in imagining viable futures, and in producing resonance, believe-ability and hope.
The political struggle around the climate emergency is the struggle for multilateralism, dialogue and
cooperation, in the face of populist attempts to use a moment of historical anxiety for narrowly
sectarian ends. From a heritage perspective, the question of relevance is: How do we mobilise the
affective power of heritage in support of open, creative, and inclusive futures?
Lead Author:
Nick Shepherd
Review Author:
Joshua Benjamin Cohen
Contributing Authors:
William Carmen
Moses Chundu
Christian Ernsten
Oscar Guevara
Franziska Haas
Shumon T. Hussain
Felix Riede
A.R. Siders
Chandni Singh
Pindai Sithole
Alexandra Troi
1. Introduction
1.1 Points of departure: the moment of the now
For many of us, the events of the last two-and-a-half years have felt like an historical hinge, a period in
time that marks a clear before and after. The novel coronavirus pandemic and the global public
health response, have called into question many previously taken-for-granted ideas and practices
and redefined our sense of the possible (Aschwanden, 2021; Saaliq, 2021; Vinter, 2021). Mid-2020
saw widespread demonstrations against racism, police brutality and authoritarianism, organised
under a variety of banners including #BlackLivesMatter. Not least there is the climate emergency itself,
with 2021especially the northern hemisphere summerdescribed by some commentators as the
moment when climate change burst onto the public and political agenda (Clayton, 2020; Hickman,
2021; Wu, Snell, & Samji, 2020). Important here is the acknowledgement that climate change and its
devastating impacts have mediated lived realities of people and ecosystems in the southern
hemisphere for a decade if not more. This understanding of the moment of the now becomes a first
point of departure for this white paper. The scale and urgency of the challenges that we face mean
that business as usualapproaches are no longer enough. There is a time for cautious thinking, but
there is also a time when bold and creative approaches are called for. Accordingly, this WP does
more than merely describe the state of research at the intersection between culture, heritage, and
climate change as per the scoping questions. It also makes a case for fresh approaches and
perspectives, and for the conversations that we need to be havingor that we need to be having in
new ways. These are presented as a series of ten talking points.
A second point of departure likewise derives from the contemporary moment. Seldom have science
and technology been more prominent in the public sphere, than in the last two years. We have all
become armchair virologists as we have tracked the progress and mutation of the virus, and the race
to develop a vaccine. The achievement of a number of effective vaccines in record time is an
extraordinary achievement, and a vindication for advocates of STEM subjects and science-based
policy (Ball, 2020; Zimmer, Corum, & Wee, 2021). However, this observation is doubled by a second
observation: the manner in which, at almost every turn, science-based understandings and policies
have been entangled with, and mediated by, complex social, cultural, political and economic forces
and dynamics. This has been true at a national levelin culture wars, denialism, and politicking around
the pandemicand it has been true at a transnational level, in uneven access to vaccines, a breakdown
in trust, and the entrenchment of deeply-rooted animosities and inequalities (Callaway, 2020;
Cornwall, 2020; Crist, 2021; McKee, Gugushvili, Koltai, & Stuckler, 2020; Osama, Razai, & Majeed,
2021; Padma, 2021; Philips, Augustin, & Collyns, 2021; Ricard & Medeiros, 2020; Sturm & Albrecht,
2021). Understanding that solutions to the climate emergency are likely to be similarly entangled, this
WP makes a strong case for the need to understand and anticipate such entanglements. In the first
place, this involves drawing on conceptual vocabularies and understandings from the social sciences
and humanities. In the second place, it involves developing the kinds of conversations that give equal
weight to scientific discoveries and to the public, political and historical contexts in which such
discoveries are made and applied.
1.2 A Heritage Perspective
Heritage is a notoriously slippery concept (slippery in the sense that it evades precise definition). It
joins other conceptslike culture, tradition and identitythat appear straightforward at first glance, but
that gather layers of complexity the closer one looks. For present purposes, we should note two
aspects of heritage as a concept. The first is that it is used in three overlapping senses or modalities.
The first of these is a popular usage of heritage, in which it codes for ideas like identity, tradition,
belonging and descendancy. The second is an official, legal and institutional usage, focused around
definitions and distinctionslike the conventional distinctions between cultural and natural heritage,
and between tangible and intangible heritage. This is a modality of heritage that is probably most
familiar to many of us, and it characterises the work of organisations like UNESCO and ICOMOS. A
third modality of heritage is a concept of heritage as it appears in research spaces, in the
interdisciplinary field of heritage studies (as opposed to the second modality, which is often referred
to as heritage management). A full discussion of these different modalities of heritage is given in the
Appendix. For present purposes, we need to note that the second and third modalities of heritage
differ on key points of definition, and the understanding of core terms like value and authenticity.
However, rather than getting snagged on such differences, it becomes equally important to note that
these modalities of heritage have different ends: for the second modality of heritage, this is about
creating a community of practice and constructing stable legal objects for the purposes of
management; for the third, it is about understanding the full complexity of our relationship to the past
in the present.
A second aspect of heritage that requires brief comment, concerns its scope and meaning.
Conventional definitions of heritage break down into a narrower and a broader understanding of its
remit. Narrower definitions of heritage might be summarised by the phrase a duty of care towards
old (valued) things, sites and practices. This understanding of heritage directs us to think about
practices of stewardship, custodianship, and care. The questions that it generates in relation to
climate change are, in the first instance, questions about risk and mitigation in carrying out this duty
of care. However, a second, broader definition of heritage exists, which can be summarised by the
phrase accumulated human wisdom. Here, heritage appears as something more: the sum total of
ideas and innovations accumulated through time and across space, across the immense variety of
human experience. In this understanding, heritage becomes a kind of archive of our species and
civilisational experience, and the questions generated in relation to anthropogenic climate change
are more far-reaching: How can we draw on this archive in a moment of peril, to solve some of the
problems associated with anthropogenic climate change? This is an archive not just of technological
innovation, but also of worldviews, values, forms of relatedness, and ways of being. As well as being
an historical archive, it is also a living archive, in the sense that it forms part of a set of living traditions
held and practiced by people throughout the world as part of local, traditional and Indigenous
Knowledge Systems (IKS) (Carmen, this report; Sithole and Chundu, this report). Because the
question of finding solutions to the challenges of anthropogenic climate change require us to think
holistically, using the full range of tools available to us, all three modalities of heritage will be
considered hereand a number of arguments will be framed explicitly from the space of heritage
In summary, there are a number of features of a heritage perspective on anthropogenic climate
change which make it distinctive, and different from other perspectives. These include the following:
- An orientation towards deep time: Heritage gives us a perspective on the longue duréeof
the human career, understanding human history not just as a civilisational historyas in
conventional accountsbut as a species (and multispecies) history. Thinking at the scale of
epochs, it invites us to think about the Pleistocene in relation to key biological, social and
cultural developments in our species being, and the Holocene in relation to the development
of our civilisational complex. This deep time perspective becomes key as we look for historical
analogues for the epochal change currently underway (Riede at al., this report).
- An orientation towards the future: Arguably, one of the features that makes anthropogenic
climate change a wickedproblem is our limited ability to think forward, in terms of our
accountability towards future generations, centuries and millennia (Scranton, 2015). A
heritage perspective offers us an orientation towards the future via its core duty of care.
Heritage might be described as a conversation (or transaction) between past, present and
future, defined by an ethics of care.
- An orientation towards Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK): A powerful aspect of heritage
is its ability to take us outside of modern, Western ontologies and epistemologies (however
defined), towards the archive of Indigenous and local knowledge. This archive exists both as
a living archive of practices, understandings, technologies, and ways of being, and as an
historical archive of non-modern knowledges and social arrangements (Carmen, this report;
Ernsten, this report; Sithole and Chundu, this report)
- An orientation towards both practice and critical thinking: The fact that heritage divides
between institutionally based management practices and scholarly research practices means
that taking a heritage perspective orients us towards both practice and critical thinking.
Arguably, this under-appreciated aspect of heritage is one of its most important features as
we address the challenges of anthropogenic climate change, delivering both institutional
power and capacity, and reflexive thinking and the ability to frame questions.
2. Overview of Questions Addressed
This WP addresses the following overarching questions:
- In what ways can a heritage perspective help us to address the multiple challenges associated
with anthropogenic climate change?
- Taking a broad view of heritage as a cultural archive of accumulated human wisdom, what
solutions can be found to current and future problems associated with anthropogenic
climate change?
Solutions in this context are understood to exist at different scales: both small-s’ solutions, understood
as immediate technical fixes to defined problems, and big-SSolutions, for example, changes in
values, behaviors, and social meanings. More broadly, it asks:
- What does it mean to address the climate emergency from the perspective of the social
sciences and humanities, and from the set of concepts that constellate around the notion of
heritage? These concepts include notions of culture, identity, tradition, and the trajectory of
the human career through time.
These overarching questions break down into a series of sub-questions:
- How have culture and heritage as resources for climate resilience and adaptation been
incorporated into recent IPCC reports?
- What is the state of knowledge regarding the capacity for culture and heritage to serve as
enablers of climate resilience and adaptation in published scientific literature external to IPCC
- What is the state of knowledge regarding the capacity for cultural and natural heritage
to act as resources for physical and psychological resilience during and after disasters
or conflicts?
- What is the state of knowledge regarding how tangible and intangible heritage, cultural
institutions and cultural actors have inspired individual and collective climate action?
- What is the state of knowledge regarding the roles of culture and heritage in decarbonisation
and mitigation? This includes but is not limited to: alternative ways of living and non-material
measures of well-being; green creative economies; and the adaptive reuse of the historic
built environment.
Being solutions-focused, this WP will place special emphasis on the following three cross-cutting
questions, drawn from the scoping brief:
- Where have major definitions of heritage been made and how do these intersect with
attention to, or lack of attention to, climate impacts and responses?
- What is the balance of current and needed methods for translating insights from centuries or
millennia of human-environment experience into meaningful approaches to contemporary
climate science and response?
- Learning from the past requires asking questions of it: How well do questions that
climate science, adaptation, and mitigation communities have for and about the human
past, and the nature of human behaviour and society, align with questions that
researchers who focus on the past ask about these topics?
Finally: What are the gaps in current approaches to culture, heritage, and the climate
emergency? What conversations do we need to be having, which we are not currently having
(or having enough of)? What new ideas and concepts do we need to put into play?
3. Methods
Given the scope, scale, and open-ended nature of many of these questions, this WP makes use of
three sets of methods, to provide at least partial answers. First are bibliographic methods, aimed at
reviewing the relevant literatures at the intersection between culture, heritage, and climate change.
This review is intended to address the sub-questions directed at understanding the state of
knowledge in specified areas, inside and outside of IPCC reports. Second, it uses a case study
approach, focusing on eight heritage-related projects and bodies of work that offer solutions to the
climate emergency. Case studies were selected for diversity of approach and coverage across a
range of axes: Global North/ Global South perspectives, Indigenous/ non-Indigenous perspectives,
and diversity of disciplinary and epistemic perspectives. Each case study is intended to shine a light
into a particular corner of heritage research and practice, and to demonstrate the kinds of solutions
on offer. In some cases, the authors of the case studies use different methods, employ different
technical languages, and have different starting assumptions. This is in keeping with the broad range
of approaches convened under the heading of natural and cultural heritage research and
management. A third aspect of the methodology is the work of analysis. This looks for the points of
convergence and divergence across this range of materialsthe bold ideas, the gaps in coverage,
the shifts in perspectiveand renders these as a set of 11 talking points. Rather than a set of
conclusions or recommendations, we have decided to present the results of this collective research
exercise in the form of a set of talking points. These talking points constitute our understanding of the
conversations that we need to be having, the issues that we need to foreground, the concepts that
we need to put into play, and the practices and methodologies that we need to adopt, if we are to
find solutions to the climate emergencythinking and practicing from a heritage perspective.
The talking points are intended to function as conversation startersfor researchers, practitioners,
knowledge holders and activists coming from a broad range of perspectives. It is worth saying
something about what it means to get into conversation. In our understanding, we get into
conversation around things with which we strongly agree, and strongly disagreeless so around safe,
middle-of-the-road utterances. Thus, the talking points are rendered in a direct manner, and are
intended to encourage conversation and the articulation of positions for and against.
4. Literature review
4.1. Natural and cultural heritage as resources for climate resilience and adaptation in
recent IPCC reports (in particular SR1.5C, SRCCL, and SROCC).
The term heritage itself is used relatively rarely across all IPCC reports. When it is used, it most
commonly refers to specific sites, reserves, areas or assets under threat from climate change, often of
world heritage status. In such cases, heritage primarily constitutes a resource towards resilience and
adaptation, in the sense that learning how climate change affects sites and assetsand the people,
industries and ecological processes related to themoffers insight on how best to respond and
adapt. More recent reports use heritage in a broader range of senses. In the First Assessment Report
(AR1) for example, the term heritage overwhelmingly refers to specific sites and reserves (in 21 out of
23 mentions), mentioning a broader sense of social and cultural heritageon just two occasions
(Pentland, Theys, & Abrol, 1990, pp. 167, 173). Amongst all reports, the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)
refers to heritage most often (28 mentions), and in the most diverse ways, referring to specific heritage
sites on only five occasions (Kolstad et al., 2014, p. 221; Kovats et al., 2014, p. 1292; Reisinger et al.,
2014, p. 1382; Revi et al., 2014, pp. 559, 560). The term is associated with a greater range of cultural
phenomena, including unique rural landscapes(Kovats et al., 2014, p. 1293), values(Field et al.,
2014, p. 60), and narratives, world views, identity, community cohesion, and sense of place(Adger
et al., 2014)again with an emphasis on threats from climate change. Of particular note is the fact that
it points out that [some] have argued … the bio-cultural heritage of indigenous peoples is a resource
that should be valued and preserved as it constitutes an irreplaceable bundle of teachings on the
practices of mitigation and sustainability(Kolstad et al., 2014, p. 255).
Used in relation to specific sites, areas and assets, the term heritage appears in Global Warming of
1.5°C (SR1.5C), with three out of six mentions (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2018, pp. 242, 243, 253),
Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) with two out of six mentions (Arneth et al., 2019, p. 106; Mirzabaev
et al., 2019, p. 301), and IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate
(SROCC) with eight out of sixteen mentions (Bindoff et al., 2019, p. 541; Hock et al., 2019, pp. 134,
171, 174; Pörtner et al., 2019, pp. 49, 69). Here too there is an emphasis on resilience and adaptation
as a result of learning from climate change threats and impacts on heritagealthough this is not
always the case. For example, the Siwa oasis is mentioned as a repository of dry-adapted plant
genetic material in CCL (Mirzabaev et al., 2019, p. 301).
However, taking heritage in a much broader sense to include culture, archaeology, the creative arts,
Indigenous and local knowledges and practices, paints a different picture. As other reviewers have
noted, the trajectory through AR1 to AR5 has been to pay increasing attention to heritage-related
realities and academic disciplines, and to take these increasingly seriously in terms of understanding
and responding to climate change. There is a clear increase in references to Indigenous knowledge
between AR1 and AR5 (Hall & Ram, 2016), a trend continued in the three most recent reports, with
SRCCL and SROCC in particular including detailed reference to Indigenous and local knowledge.
This is in part related to these reports’ focus on land, seas, coasts, and ice, and the people who live in
such places. As noted by Kohler and Rockman (2020), the Third Assessment Report (AR3) includes
the first hint that IPCC authors consider the archaeological record to potentially hold important
lessons for how humans might adapt to climate change (p. 633). On the other hand, it is also the case
that of the three most recent reports, only SROCC makes any substantial use of archaeological data
(p. 363).
A trend continued across reports and into SR1.5C, SRCCL and SROCC has been for heritage to be
viewed through an increasingly positive lensthat is, in terms of what it brings to the table in terms of
solutions to climate change, rather than as an impediment to be overcome. In the 332-page AR1
Working Group 3 (‘Responses’) report (IPCC, 1990), for example, heritage is mentioned on a total of
two pages in terms of its actively positive contributionsas people’s knowledge of living in water-
adapted houses (Gilbert & Vellinga, 1990, p. 154), and as living organisms’ and society’s built in
ability to adapt to climate change (Pentland et al., 1990, p. 167). Heritage is likewise mentioned twice
as an impediment to adaptation measures—'cultural barriers possibly preventing translocating
adaptation measures from one locale to another(Pentland et al., 1990, p. 167), and “cultural
traditions” which might be at odds with sustainable agricultural and economic development
(Pentland et al., 1990, p. 173). By contrast,in the 765-page SROCC, forms of heritage are mentioned
on at least 49 pages in relation to solutionsso that heritage’s role in active, positive contributions to
adaptation, mitigation, and resilience, outweigh its role as a barrierby a ratio of more than 3 to 1 (38
vs. 11 pages) (IPCC, 2019). At the same time, analyses of the kinds of barriers heritage and culture
might present have arguably become more specific and sophisticated, with increasing
acknowledgement of the external and internal power dynamics which operate in every local context.
These include quite extensive considerations of inequalities of gender, Indigeneity, wealth, race, age,
and disability (e.g. Arneth et al., 2019, pp. 80, 106; Pörtner et al., 2019, pp. 92, 373).
This parallels a trend across recent IPCC reports for the inclusion of studies which argue foror show
the higher likelihood for adaptation or resilience efforts to succeed if they pay attention tocontext-
specific realities, with an identified gap in knowledge regarding coastal communities (Pörtner et al.,
2019, p. 534). Studies emphasise the importance of working co-operatively with affected
communities as knowledgeable and equal partners (e.g. Oppenheimer et al., 2019, p. 406). The cited
material suggests that culture and heritagemost commonly taken as various forms of local and
Indigenous knowledge and practiceshould be drawn upon and combined with scientific
knowledge and practice. It is argued that such ways of working can play a central role in improving
resilience and adaptive capacity from coasts (Pörtner et al., 2019, p. 534), to farming systems (Olsson
et al., 2019, p. 381), to water management, soil fertility, grazing, and the management of forests (Smith
et al., 2019, p. 638). This includes technologies (de Coninck et al., 2018, p. 371) and agroecological
knowledge (Mirzabaev et al., 2019, p. 252), as well as forms of political and social organisation (Arneth
et al., 2019, p. 106). Loss of cultural heritage, including Indigenous knowledge'threatened by
acculturation, dispossession of land rights and land grabbing, rapid environmental changes,
colonization and social change(de Coninck et al., 2018, p. 337)is taken as being synonymous with
a diminution of communities’ ability to respond effectively to climate change related changes (Pörtner
et al., 2019, p. 662).
4.1.1 Knowledge gaps
SR1.5, SRCCL, and SROCC each identify several heritage and culture-related knowledge gaps:
including lack of evidence on the socio-cultural acceptability of energy adaptations (de Coninck et al.,
2018, p. 388), and a paucity of effective predictive models on the community- and household-level
impacts of 1.5 and 2°C worlds (Pörtner et al., 2019, p.475). There are two notable knowledge gaps
not addressed in this WP because of lack of space: 1) the paucity of archaeological data in IPCC
reports; and 2) the general lack of consideration of the visual and performing artswith exceptions
having to do with landscapes’ propensity to evoke artistic inspiration in SROCC (Bindoff et al., 2019,
p. 514), and discussion of The Decision Theater North at the University of Alaska in relation to arts-
based methods (Meredith et al., 2019). Critical reflection might focus on the challenge raised in
SR1.5C, that while the importance of indigenous and local knowledge is recognised, the ability to
scale up beyond the local remains challenging and little examined(de Coninck et al., 2018, p. 390).
The SROCC also depicts Indigenous knowledge as applicable to local contexts, as opposed to the
depiction of the global relevance of science (Pörtner et al., 2019, p. 47).
4.2 The capacity for natural and cultural heritage to serve as enablers of climate resilience
and adaptation, in published scientific literature external to IPCC reports
Recognizing that this is not intended to be a comprehensive review, we take guidance from the WP
scoping document, our own reading of the relevant literatures, and ICOMOS’s recently published
The Future of Our Pasts: Engaging Cultural Heritage in Climate Action - in order to identify and outline
five areas of heritage-linked climate change research and publication.
1) Indigenous and local knowledge;
2) communication of climate change science and experience;
3) resilience during and after disasters and conflict;
4) archaeological and previous and current climate change; and
5) decarbonisation and mitigation efforts.
We also point briefly to other emerging literatures that lie outside of these areas. Ten core concepts
recur across these different thematic areas and help to anchor the discussion. These are:
1) natural and cultural heritage;
2) tangible and intangible heritage;
3) loss;
4) care;
5) inheritance;
6) preservation;
7) resilience;
8) adaptation;,
9) understandings of science; and
10) mitigation.
Painting with broad brushstrokes, it is possible to identify two distinguishable, but not entirely
separate, currents in this literature, which correspond to heritage modalities two and threea
heritage management approach, versus a heritage studies approach (see Appendix). In the first of
these currents, it is not uncommon to come across scholars whose other published works have been
cited in previous IPCC reports (e.g. Albrecht et al., 2007; Tschakert et al., 2017). Research is typically
goal-oriented, often seeking to establish best practice principles toward both better management of
heritage in the context of climate change, and towards discovering and demonstrating ways in which
heritage might be a resource for practically responding to climate change and meeting SDGs.
Scholars whose work is more allied to heritage modality three are more rarely cited in IPCC reports,
although there are exceptions (e.g. Samuels, 2016). Reflecting its roots in critical, social constructivist
theory, heritage studies has asked how, why, and in relation to what kinds of social processes and
power relations certain things and practices come to be regarded as heritage, and to be worthy of
protection and transmission to future generations (e.g. Brett, 1996; S. Hall, 1999; Lowenthal, 1998).
Bringing this legacy into climate change-related work, heritage studies scholars work with a critical
eye on the assumptive goals and frameworks that motivate much heritage management scholarship
and practices.
4.2.1 Indigenous and local knowledge and practice (ILK)
Since this important topic is the subject of White Paper 1, and in the interests of avoiding repetition,
here we limit commentary to the challenge raised in 1.5C (de Coninck et al., 2018, p. 390): the
problem of scaling Indigenous knowledge (IK) beyond the local. We suggest that reflecting on an
instance where IK has already scaled beyond the local might be useful. Many ecologically minded
scholars across anthropology (Ingold, 2011; Tsing, 2015), philosophy (Morton, 2016), science and
technology studies (Latour, 2005; Stengers, 2018), and heritage studies (Harrison, 2015; Harrison &
Sterling, 2020; Harvey & Perry, 2015), work with concepts and theory that either draw on, or closely
resemble, Indigenous ideas and ontologies (i.e. theories of being) (cf. Sterling, 2020). While there are
many internal differences in this body of work, concepts such as Morton’s (2016) hyperobjects (and
related notion of entanglement), Haraway’s (2016b) ‘tentacular thinking’, and Latour’s (2017)
retooling of the Gaia conceptamongst many other exampleshelp to compose worldviews which
echo Indigenous ontologies in many respects (Hallowell, 1964; Kopenawa & Albert, 2013; Salmón,
2000). These include worldviews in which ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ do not exist as separate domains of
existence; in which humans and non-humans are fundamentally constituted through their
relationships with other humans and non-humans; and in which the non-human world is aware and/
or agential. The popularity and utility of such concepts makes sense at an historical moment when
humanity is facing the increasingly dangerous forces of a planet transformed by humanity’s own
actionswhere there is no ‘outside’ of climate change (cf. Morel & Ammerveld, 2021).
One upshot of working with concepts such as these, is that the solutions to climate change and other
environmental crises that such scholars propose are also often quite reminiscent of Indigenous
notions of what constitutes the good lifethat is, learning to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships
with human and non-human kin (Haraway, 2016a; Salmón, 2000; Watts, 2013), or what Tsing et al.
(2017) refer to as ‘the arts of living on a damaged planet.
Indigenous/ decolonial scholars and thinkers have pointed out that equating the concepts of Latour,
Haraway, Morton et al. with ideas developed by Indigenous peoples (Watts, 2013), and not
recognising Indigenous thinkers who have advancing similar topics, are acts of epistemic colonialism
(Todd, 2016). With this caveat in mind, it nevertheless remains the case that concepts and practices
taken by many to be at the forefront of efforts to analyse and find solutions to the climate emergency,
owe a great deal to supposedly locally bound Indigenous intellectual heritages.
4.2.2 UNESCO World Heritage and climate change
UNESCO has been active in exploring and managing the impacts of climate change on world
heritage. In 2006, under the guidance of the World Heritage Committee, it prepared a report on
predicting and managing the impacts of climate change on world heritage and strategy to assist
states parties to implement appropriate management responses through stakeholder engagement,
followed by a compilation of case studies on climate change and world heritage, and a policy
document on the impacts of climate change on world heritage properties in 2008.
In November 2015, the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention
adopted a new policy on sustainable development which integrated the principle of strengthening
resilience to natural hazards and climate change. The policy states that in the face of increasing
disaster risks and the impact of climate change, states parties should recognise that world heritage
represents both an asset to be protected and a resource to strengthen the ability of communities and
their properties to resist, absorb, and recover from the effects of such a hazards.
UNESCO’s stated policy is to build capacities of states parties and other stakeholders to manage
climate change impacts on world heritage effectively and sustainably. The aim of these efforts is to
increase the capacity of these properties to continue to convey their Outstanding Universal Value
(OUV) and to support sustainable development. In May 2014, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre
published a practical guide to Climate Change Adaptation for Natural World Heritage Sites.
4.2.3 Communication of climate change science and experience
Many forms of culture and heritage are currently being used to facilitate the transmission of climate
science to wider audiences, often with the aim of stimulating climate action. This includes heritage
sites, museums, art, climate fiction, and film. A significant and expanding literature describes the
current state of knowledge and practice, analyses methodologies, and puts forward ideas and data
explaining successes and failures. Heritage sites
Both 1.5C (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2018) and SROCC (Hock et al., 2019; Meredith et al., 2019) discuss
‘last chance tourism’ where people visit glaciers and other sites before climate change transforms
them forever, while SROCC (Meredith et al., 2019) includes studies showing that arctic tourism offers
opportunities for education (see also Powell, Ramshaw, Ogletree, & Krafte, 2016), and that the
degradation of the Great Barrier Reef can be emotionally affecting for people (Bindoff et al., 2019, p.
514). External to these reports, researchers found positive connections between visits to iconic
heritage sites and climate action (Goldberg et al., 2016; Goldberg et al., 2018; Lemieux et al., 2018).
Samuels and Platts (2020)develop a climate communication recognition scheme for … [UNESCO]
World Heritage Sites to explore the communicative power of heritage to mobilise stakeholders
around climate change.
17 Museums
In the last decade, museums have paid increasing attention to climate change (McGhie, 2020).
Dedicated, building-based climate museums are being established, including in Bremerhaven,
Hong Kong, Rio, New York and Olso, while entirely online climate museums are also emerging
(Newell, 2020). These play key roles in knowledge production and dissemination, community
engagement, stimulating climate action, and mitigation and example setting (e.g. by reducing their
institutional carbon footprints) (McGhie, 2020). Recent studies have shown how museums can help
empower children to communicate science to wider publics (Boaventura et al., 2021); act as
decolonial agents of social change (Chipangura & Mataga, 2021); build lasting relationships with
underrepresented communities (Eid & Forstrom, 2021); stimulate group experiences and shared
understanding as an important variable in turning climate knowledge into action (Sutton & Robinson,
2020); and present a model for how museums might engage publics around climate change science
and collective action (Hamilton & Ronning, 2020). Visual and performing arts
Art and artists of all kinds are engaged in climate change research, debate, action, and activism, with
organisations such as Arts Catalyst actively supporting artist projects, research and public
programmes at the intersections of art, health, ecology and economics (Arts-Catalyst, 2021; Harrison
& Sterling, 2020). Disconnects between the impersonal grand scale of ‘the globe’ and climate data,
versus the places in which human and non-humans actually live is a core subject of the recent
exhibition and book Critical Zones: the Science and Politics of Landing on Earth involving scientists,
artists, philosophers, and others (Latour & Weibel, 2020). In a comparable way, visual and other art
forms have been used to communicate about climate change in modes other than numbers and
written words (Roosen, Klöckner, & Swim, 2018), for example, among youth and children
(Hendrickson Lohmeier, Thompson, Chen, & Mishol, 2021), in art galleries (Hudson Hill, 2020), in
debates around the arctic (Lehtimäki, Rosenholm, & Strukov, 2021; Michałowska, 2020), in the 115
climate-change based video-games Gerber et al (2021) found in their review of the genre, and in
digital algorithms that hold a mirror to humanity’s collective concerns with climate change (Petrić &
Jalobeanu, 2021). This also includes art associated with UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP)
such as Olafur Eliasson’s (2018) Ice Watch (COP24), Hawe’s (2021) Clarion the Bear (COP26), and
Binitie’s (2021) science-art collaboration Polar Zero (COP26). In a study of such artworks associated
with COP21, Sommer & Klöckner (2021) found that works characterised as offering ‘awesome
solutions’ caused the highest emotional and cognitive activation in audiences. Arts-based research
methods have generated insights into the sensory, social and cultural dimensions of climate change
invisible to more traditional methods (Bastian, Jones, Moore, & Roe, 2016; Roberts & Phillips, 2018),
while projects involving combinations of artists, designers, engineers and scientists have stimulated
conversations and collaborations across social and natural science disciplines and social
positionalities (Clinch, 2021; Heerema, 2021; Steelman et al., 2019; Tosca et al., 2021).
Forms of performance and theatre underpin how museums, galleries and other institutions seek to
interest and engage publics (Picken, 2016). They are also key in the planning, undertaking, and
analysis of the efficacy and spectacle of climate protests, including the Greta Thunberg-inspired
School Strike for Climate Movement (Alexandrowicz & Fancy, 2021), the self-immolation of David
Buckel (Scrimer, 2021), and Extinction Rebellion (Alexandrowicz, 2021). Theatre and performance
have recently been used in various ways: to give voice to marginalised stories of climate change
(Jordan, 2020); as a channel for Indigenous arts practices (Woynarski et al., 2020); to challenge
stereotypes of passive Indigenous victims of climate change (Mangioni, 2021); to lampoon the
absurdity of political inaction in relation to climate change (Carleton & Hay, 2020, p. 79); and to
provoke productive discussion and empowerment(Davidson, 2021, p. 115). Theatrical productions
have attempted to connect audiences in visceral ways with climate change, and to imagine alternative
futures, with Latour’s 2014 Gaïa Global Circus prominent among these (Coppola, 2020). Climate fiction
The genre of climate fictionsince 2007 also known as ‘cli-fi’ (Goodbody & Johns-Putra, 2018, p. 1)
has had much to say about the dangers of a business-as-usual world. Drought (Bacigalupi, 2015;
Watkins, 2015), rising seas (Turner, 1989), storms (Herbert, 1992), floods (Ballard, 1973; Tuomainen,
2010), melting glaciers (Romu, 2021), extreme climatic shifts (Gee, 1998; Herzog, 1977; Le Guin,
1971; Spinrad, 1999), destruction of the living world (Atwood, 2003; Boyle, 2001; Butler, 2020) and
attendant social-cultural ramifications (Crichton, 2004; Okorafor, 2010) often play central roles as
authors grapple with how humanity lives and might live with the more-than-human world. Often the
intimate spaces of everyday life are used to render tangible the enormous spatial-temporal scales of
climate change. Cautionary tales of death and despair, and of coping in the worst of circumstances,
abound. Yet there are also imaginaries of care, collaboration, and utopian joy (Kabo, 2021), turning
fear into action (Offill, 2020), hope (Ghosh, 2019), and of Indigenous heritages offering ways of living
other than capitalism (Wright, 2013). There is some evidence that reading climate fiction can impact
beliefs and attitudes (Schneider-Mayerson et al., 2020). Beyond this, however, fiction offers a
powerful medium to explore hopes and fears about climate change and imagine potential solutions,
it also provides a means to broaden the range of voices road-mapping a way forward(Malpas, 2021).
A burgeoning field, cli-fi authors, and those analyzing their work, are increasingly addressing Ghosh’s
influential call for more tools to think climate change as a cultural phenomenon (Ghosh, 2017). Film
With many films produced in Hollywood, Bollywood, and elsewhere based on climate fiction and
non-fiction storylines (e.g. Emmerich, 2004; Fan, 2015; Nolan, 2014; Reynolds, 1995; Sharma &
Chaubey, 2021), film has been a key medium for conveying the threats of climate change in
informative and affecting ways. An uptick in the publication of climate fiction literature was linked to
the 2001 release of An Inconvenient Truth (Goodbody & Johns-Putra, 2018). Artists and researchers
are employing film in various ways: to understand and advocate for youth climate action (Cherry,
2021; Leckey et al., 2021; Tayne, Littrell, Okochi, Gold, & Leckey, 2021); to research different
psychological mindsets in relation to climate action (Beattie & McGuire, 2021); to provoke affective
awareness of the more-than-human world (Chang, 2019); to bring local knowledge and experience
into dialogue with climate policy (F. Clement & Sugden, 2021); and to draw attention to ‘Afrofuture
ecosystems’ (Macdonald & Petty, 2020).
4.2.4 Resilience during and after disasters and conflict
Key debates in this thematic area center on the double-edged nature of heritage. On the one hand,
heritage in the form of buildings and sites can mean that people develop stronger attachments to
place, and are therefore more likely to stay and rebuild, and in this way to be (or to appear to be)
more resilient (Cassar & Pender, 2005; Guo, Zhang, Zhang, & Zheng, 2018; Jigyasu et al., 2013). On
the other hand, having strong place attachment also means there is a greater sense of loss when
change occurswhether through environmental change (C. Phillips & Murphy, 2021; Warsini, Mills,
& Usher, 2014), relocation (Dugan, 2007; B. Phillips, Stukes, & Jenkins, 2012; Simms, Waller, Brunet,
& Jenkins, 2021), or other transformative adaptation (Clarke, Murphy, & Lorenzoni, 2018). Heritage
and place attachment make places and ecosystems and buildings non-substitutable and
irreplaceable, meaning that their loss is truly a loss (Randall, 2009; Simms et al., 2021). This is a point
that is well made in works cited in previous IPCC reports (e.g. Tschakert et al., 2017, IPCC 2019), as
are the points that connection to place and personal and community values shape what people think
is fair in terms of climate mitigation and adaptation (Adger, 2016; Adger, Quinn, Lorenzoni, &
Murphy, 2016; Lau et al., 2021; Paavola & Adger, 2006), and can increase our ability to deal with
adaptation (Kuruppu & Liverman, 2011). A key term here, also referenced in previous reports is
‘solastalgia’ (e.g. Albrecht et al., 2007, IPCC 2019, pp. 103)'as opposed to nostalgia, the melancholia
or homesickness experienced by individuals when separated from a loved home. Solastalgia is the
distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly
connected to their home environment(Albrecht et al., 2007, p. S95).
Not found in IPCC reports, are discussions of various forms of disaster memorial. In this perspective,
the changes brought about by anthropogenic climate change are themselves heritage events,
shaping our understanding of places and altering them, such that documenting those changes can
be part of heritage (Egberts & Riesto, 2021; Rockman & Maase, 2017). Examples include memorials
to extinct plants and animals on the Dorset coast (Randall, 2009, p. 128), and to the death of nature in
general (Bauman, 2015). Disaster memorials can be a way of creating a shared memory of events,
and can help people process loss (Bauman, 2015; Eyre, 2007; Randall, 2009), and motivate future
action (Randall, 2009). Similarly, constructing collective post-disaster narratives can create a
recollection which is less likely to produce the same anxiety and allows individuals to incorporate
disaster events into personal and community history (Moulton, 2015, p. 319). Collections of
photographs have been used to similar effect after the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake (Manzoli, 2021).
Also not found in IPCC reports are ways of differently conceiving of loss itself. With its long-established
conception of the contingency of all heritage, a heritage studies approach offers food for thought
and action. A central contention of Harvey and Perry’s (2015) edited volume The Future of Heritage
as Climates Change, is that we need to revise our understanding of the role that heritage plays: [the]
traditional view that heritage conservation carries a treasured past into a well-understood future
[needs to] be rejected. A new view of heritage, serving society in times of rapid climate change,
embraces loss, alternative forms of knowledge and uncertain futures ... Such uncertainty provides a
space for creativity … [This] is not a fatalist sense of acceptance or a call to ‘do nothing’. Indeed, the
threat we perceive is an approach that seeks to ‘mitigate’ without challenging the essentialist notions
of stability that lie behind so many dreams of sustaining the status quo(pp. 4, 14, 271). Comparable
conceptions of creatively embracing loss and change are put forward by other scholars (e.g. Desilvey,
2012; DeSilvey, 2017; DeSilvey & Harrison, 2020; Rico, 2020; Venture, DeSilvey, Onciul, & Fluck,
2021). Holtorf (2018) argues that cultural resilience, risk preparedness, post-disaster recovery and
mutual understanding between people will be best enhanced by an increased ability to accept loss
and transformation(p. 639). Similar notions are also found in more heritage management-focused
literature, where, for example, Seekamp and Jo argue for the World Heritage Convention to develop
a new grouping of sites, World Heritage Sites in Climatic Transformation(2020, p. 41). In a perhaps
compatible move, Aktürk and Lerski (2021, p. 310) have advocated for the resiliency benefits for
displaced persons of their ‘intangible heritage’songs, ritual, and forms of sociality that would
previously have been practiced in lost place-based ‘tangible heritage’ of homes, neighborhoods, and
landscapes. The ‘ephemerality’ and ‘flexibility’ of this intangible heritage, they argue, means that it can
help forge new meanings and community, in and with new host communities.
4.2.5 Archaeology and previous and current climate changes
There is broad consensus among archaeologists that the discipline’s debates about, and
understanding of, human-environment relationships have become more nuanced, complex, and
open than the social and environmental determinisms that characterized earlier periods of the
discipline (Britton & Hillerdal, 2019; Kohler & Rockman, 2020; Rosen, 2007). Archaeological methods
combining natural science-based methods with complex statistical and modelling methodologies,
alongside social science, humanities and local and Indigenous knowledge are increasingly multi- and
transdisciplinary (Petraglia, Groucutt, Guagnin, Breeze, & Boivin, 2020; Rockman & Hritz, 2020; Daniel
H. Sandweiss et al., 2020; Torben & Sandweiss, 2020), strengthening its evidentiary base. Hussain
and Riede have proposed the term ‘Paleoenvironmental Humanities’, which occupies a space
between ecological reductionism and the adoption of full-scale environmental relativism, opening
up new interpretive and comparative terrain for the examination of human-climate relations(Hussain
& Riede, 2020). Ongoing debates concern the relative weight that should be given to external
environmental influence (such as changing climates) versus internal societal dynamics in observed
ancient human behaviour (Arponen et al., 2019). Culture, sometimes understood by way of
documenting contemporary Indigenous life-worlds, is considered as a key variable in the complex
climate responses of prehistoric populations (Britton & Hillerdal, 2019; Fuglestvedt, 2012). This poses
questions of ‘epistemic colonialism’ (Schneider & Hayes, 2020), and the relevance and translatability
of evidence in both temporal directions (Hodder, 2012).
Some argue that the discipline will be able to demonstrate increasingly reliable cause and effect
relationships between climate change and ancient human responses, with more precise
measurement and powerful statistical methods (Kohler & Rockman, 2020, p. 641). At the same time,
there is increasing recognition that archaeological sites already offer data for testing models of future
climate change (Daniel H Sandweiss & Kelley, 2012), including in vital ecosystems such as the
Amazon (C. R. Clement et al., 2015; Piperno, McMichael, & Bush, 2015; 2019). Torben and Sandweiss
(2020) argue that archaeological evidence offers insight into ancient human climate-induced
migrations relevant to the present day, while St. Amand et al (2020) advocate for the importance of
legacy archaeological collections for climate and environmental research. Other recent studies have
shown the suitability of prehistoric Caribbean building techniques to hurricane-prone environments
(Douglass & Cooper, 2020); the value of combining precolonial archaeological material,
ethnography, traditional knowledge, and modelling techniques for understanding and enhancing
climate resilience in the Caribbean (Hofman et al., 2021); and the manner in which mid-Holocene
coastline data can offer insight into past human responses to sea level rise, and current vulnerabilities
(Kahlert et al., 2021).
4.2.6 Decarbonisation and mitigation
Buildings account for at least one-third of global GHGs, and historic buildingsmany with heritage
valuesrelease a disproportionate portion of these gases, with uninsulated walls a primary site of heat
loss (Jahed, Aktaş, Rickaby, & Bilgin Altınöz, 2020; Marincioni et al., 2021; Redden & Crawford, 2021).
Rather than replace such buildings with new, ‘greener’ stock, various studies have shown that when
the whole life cycle of materials, waste and energy is factored in, adaptive reuseoften involving
turning old buildings with very long lifespans to new uses and retrofitting them with energy-saving
technologiesresults in lower carbon and ecological footprints (Flyen, Flyen, & Fufa, 2020; Redden &
Crawford, 2021). This is regularly referred to as a solution related to the ‘circular economy’where
reuse outweighs disposal of productive materials as much as possible (Foster & Saleh, 2021). Such
adaptive reuse of abandoned or under-used buildings can also stimulate local development
processes (Bosone, De Toro, Girard, Gravagnuolo, & Iodice, 2021). While appropriate technologies
are available (Posani, Veiga, & de Freitas, 2021), including super insulating aerogels (Ganobjak,
Brunner, & Wernery, 2020), challenges and barriers to implementation remain. These include lack of
resources for what are often expensive interventions (Bosone et al., 2021), the need to balance
heritage values, cost effectiveness, durability, and environmental concerns (Garzulino, 2020), the
question of who decides such values (Lidelöw, Örn, Luciani, & Rizzo, 2019), and restrictive policy
frameworks (Jahed et al., 2020).
Some authors argue, however, that technology-based retrofitting models are neither necessarily low
carbon nor sustainable, favouring a return to vernacular building techniques and materials (Olukoya
Obafemi, 2018; Pender & Lemieux, 2020). Studies of the low carbon and sustainable potentials of
vernacular architecture and materials such as cob, rammed earth and reeds are plentiful (Bilewicz &
Jaworska, 2013; Malheiro et al., 2021; Zawistowski, Zawistowski, & Joffroy, 2020). Authors point to
the ways in which hesitancy in switching to such materials and techniques are embedded in recently-
developed notions about what makes a building ‘comfortable’ to be in (Winter, 2016), and may in
fact lead to other problems. For example, hermetically sealed, climate-controlled building spaces,
essential for retrofitting technologies, can encourage high humidity, mold, and the trapping of
internal pollutants (Pender & Lemieux, 2020).
5. Case Studies
5.1 Climate change and California Indians: oaks, fire, and drought
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and received a PhD in Ecology from UC Berkeley. My
Grandmother was born in Potom, Rio Yaqui, Mexico and my family has close blood ties with the
Pasqua Yaqui tribe in Arizona. I work closely with the International Indian Treaty Council to
understand how climate change affects culturally important and traditional foods for indigenous
peoples. European invasion of California brought new diseases, forced displacement, and violence
that reduced the population from well over 250,000 to as low as 15,000 in the early1900s (Cook,
1976; Lindsay, 2012). We were effectively barred from access to food sources and traditions across
the California landscape. Now, with hundreds of thousands of self-identified native peoples, and 110
federally recognised tribes, California Indians have fought for tribal recognition, food sovereignty,
and the use of traditional knowledge and practices. Understanding the limits and opportunities of
traditional knowledge is critical given the anthropogenic climatic changes we now face.
Drought, acorns, and fire
Droughts are the most important climatic influence in the Southwest US. Tree ring studies in California
indicate that the past century was among the wettest of the last 7,000 yearsand, naturally, our current
cities, farming, infrastructure, and water-use are based upon these most recent wet conditions.
Recently, we have experienced short periodic droughts, but severe megadroughts in the 9th, 12th,
13th and16th centuries lasted decades. Megadroughts disrupted Native American culturessome
less than othersand provide insight on how we may adapt (or not) to future hotter and drier
Oaks are a keystone of tribal culture and traditions in California and cover approximately 13 million
acres. Indigenous peoples evolved highly specialised traditions for grove stewardship, acorn harvest
and storage, and the labour-intensive, multi-step processing required to make them edible.
Historically, 75% or more of California Indian communities ate acorns as a primary food source and
acorns comprised an estimated 50% of our diets. It has been suggested that California Indians did
not develop agricultural practices such as maize crops because acorns were so abundant.
My colleagues and I have studied oaks and acorn production in California for 42 years (Carmen et al.,
1987; Koening et al., 1994; Koening et al., 2015). Oaks produce synchronous but intermittent acorn
crops over broad areas (masting). Most species produce a good crop every two to five years, so
Indians living in areas with several species of oaks had a more reliable food source. Native peoples
also coped with variable acorn crops by moving locally to areas with higher acorn abundance and by
using methods for storing acorns over several years. Our data suggest that climate change (warmer
temperatures, less water availability, extended extreme droughts) will reduce but not eliminate acorn
production, but will negatively impact oak distribution, recruitment, and health (Carmen et al., 1987).
There will be an overall loss in oak habitat extent with some species displacing others.
Already threatened by habitat fragmentation, disease, and lack of regeneration, traditional fire
practices may play a role in oak conservation (Long et al., 2016). Oak forests are one of California’s
fire prone or fire adapted ecosystems. Indians learned to live in fire prone environments and to shape
these ecosystems with cultural fire for their benefit, with sophisticated practices, to ensure availability
of food and game, medicinal plants, and myriad wildland products such as for basket weaving (Lake
2021). California black oaks in the Sierra Nevada are declining in quality and dominance, as fire
exclusion has caused old-growth Ponderosa Pine to increase. Frequent, low intensity fires create
openings that give shade-intolerant black oaks the space and resources needed to thrive within
conifer-dominated forests. Local Wintu and Pit River people used cultural low intensity fire to improve
acorn production and to enhance deer and elk populations, and recent studies found that burning
stands in January increased the acorn crop compared to unburned areas.
The Jemez Pueblo people used 27 fire practices relative to the domestic, village, agricultural, and
larger forest landscape (Roos et al., 2021). When Indigenous lands and practices were eliminated,
fire suppression became the governments’ stated goal, to the detriment of native culture and the
environment. This has led to large-scale destructive fires due to the buildup of fuels. The largest five
fires in California history occurred within the last three years, with single fires burning up to one million
acres and destroying up to 8,000 structures (Rays, 2021). These high intensity fires kill mature trees,
destroy soil structure, increase sediment in streams and lakes, and decrease rainfall absorption. Low
intensity cultural fires create mosaics of habitats and successional stages and provide habitat diversity
and ecosystem resilience, and at the same time protect communities from large destructive fires
(Blackburn, and Anderson 1993).
Government interest in traditional burning has focused most on controlled burns to prevent large,
destructive high intensity fires, especially in the wildland urban interfacean increasingly large area
given the 40 million people who now live in California. Recent, but small-scale, agreements between
the US Forest Service and tribal communities are the first steps in the use of traditional fire knowledge
and practice to improve and protect forest ecosystems and infrastructure. However, this is still a
difficult process, as people fear fire escaping, do not like the hazardous air quality impacts from
smoke, and have the idea that burning wildlands only increases carbon emissions. However, we must
realise that California ecosystems are fire adapted, and so must we beagain.
A mutualist relationship
Evidence from the megadroughts indicate that people who were unwilling to change practices and
who relied on infrastructure that did not work under drought conditions, did not survive. This appears
to be the case with modern industrial societies that are the drivers of climate change. Adaptation will
involve reorienting our approach to the environment from one of utilitarian exploitation. Even
sustainability misses the mark: sustainability for who? And what? A mutualist rather than exploitative
relationship with nature is the key.
5.2 River love, river heritage and river repair
Christian Ernsten (Maastricht University)
Summer flood
In the summer of 2021, devastating floods ravaged Limburg’s Maas (Meuse) River valley in the
Netherlands. In the German region of Eifel and the Belgian Ardennes, river communities were caught
off guard. In Limburg, further downstream, there were no casualties, but houses were flooded, and
hospitals, towns, and villages (including my family’s) had to be evacuated. In the face of accelerating
climate change, life in the densely populated Dutch river delta suddenly felt precarious, for a few days
at least. I am writing this paper with Maastricht, the Dutch university town on the Meuse, as my point
of reference. Here, three months later, the summer flood is merely a fading memory.
As a scholar in heritage studies at Maastricht University, I am based in the Faculty of Arts and Social
Sciences, which has research programmes in science, technology and society studies and in arts,
media, and culture, among other disciplinesas well as a strong track record in engaged humanities
research (Swinnen et al., forthcoming). I take a particular interest in issues of cultural landscapes and
climate change within a Global South/Global North comparative perspective. I am trained at the
University of Cape Town, South Africa, and part of my research concerns the colonial heritage of the
Cape of Good Hope (Ernsten, 2014; 2015; 2017a: 2017b; 2018). My more recent work has a focus
on walking as a way of engaging with Anthropocene landscapes (Ernsten and Shepherd, 2020;
Ernsten et al., 2020; Shepherd and Ernsten, 2021). For the purpose of this contribution, the key point
of reference is a recent collaborative research project on revitalising river heritage as a climate change
mitigation strategy.
Anthropocene rivers
As far back as 2012, political ecologist Barbara Rose Johnston and her colleagues argued that there
was a crisis surrounding river heritage. Our footprintthat is, our historical and contemporary use and
misuse of rivershas as its consequence the fact that about 80% of the world population now live in
riverscapes that are under threat (Johnston et al., 2012). Many contemporary rivers in the 19th and 20th
centuries became the frontiers of engineers and economists, who colonised them using scientific
theories, and tools such as maps, diagrams, and inventories. According to landmark published
studies, the modern river has become as a consequence a kind of organic machine, a
techno-river, or an Anthropocene river (White, 1995; Cioc, 2002; Pritchard, 2011; Lagendijk,
2016; Strang, 2009).
The Reanimated River (RE-VER): Preserving river landscape heritage through co-creation” project involves a
consortium of researchers from Maastricht, Leiden, Utrecht, and Wageningen Universities as well as from
Design Academy Eindhoven and the Architecture Academy in Amsterdam.
I argue that the crisis of river heritage is not only a crisis in terms of preservation but also a crisis of
knowledge: which questions, approaches, and practices do we need to put in play, in order to face
the challenges of the contemporary river? (Chakrabarty, 2009; Shepherd et al., 2018; Kolen, 2019). If
we understand the Anthropocene river as being above all a human artefact, then what does it mean
to care for the riverscape? As a response, I want to point to Mississippi: An Anthropocene River (2019),
a project recently exhibited at the Haus der Welt Kulturen in Berlin (HDW, 2019), which gives clues on
how to think through questions surrounding river epistemologies. In examining the relationships
between humans and the contemporary river, its curators attempt to understand where we as
humans are placed in the cycles, systems, and stories that make up the river. They explore how these
relationships contain multiple forms of culpability, responsibility, agency and association, of a broken
nature (HDW, 2019). Moreover, the curators argue that binaries of thoughtsuch as those between
nature/culture, inside/outside, cause/effect, but also mind/body and rationality/emotionare
faltering. Moving beyond these modern dichotomies, I propose thinking about river heritage as part
of various entanglements of ecologies, histories, and technologies. In order to understand the
processes that create these entanglementsand the making of meaning and values, worlds and
worldviews, by the human and non-human actors involvedwe need new heuristic devices.
River walk
The question becomes, first, how can we delink(Mignolo, 2007) from the ways in which we currently
understand rivers? And then, how can we arrive at new ways of sensing, imagining, seeing, and
producing knowledge about rivers? Theorist Chela Sandoval’s concept of decolonial love is of help
here. Sandoval speaks of decolonial love as a rupturing in one’s everyday world(Sandoval, 2000:
139). The experience of love creates a seizure that permits crossing over to another, allowing for a
break from business of usual. Love and research may not seem like logical partners, but as
anthropologist Anna Tsing has shown, most early modern nature scientists had a great love for their
research objects (Tsing, 2015). I argue that we have to rediscover such rapture and embrace a kind
of river love in our work. I think here of a recent project by Dutch activist Li An Phoa, who walked 1,061
km along the river Meuse as part of her plea for a drinkable river.
On her website, Phoa writes:
A few generations ago, all rivers were drinkable. Now almost none [are]. This is a sign of how we live.
The current pollution and destruction, is a reflection of how we live and our health(Phoa, 2019).
More concretely, I argue that we move away from modern, expert-driven, and technoscientific forms
of landscape and river care, and turn our attention to the dedication and the solutions that are already
embedded in the historical landscape. I propose allowing river communities to regain a sense of
ownership over the local impact of the climate change crisis. Allowing river communities to repair and
restore their intimate relationships with their riverscape might contribute to new forms of landscape
stewardship. It might also make the idea of drinking water from the river less outlandish and more
attainable. As a researcher, my interest lies in uncovering methods that can address our current
climate change challenges: in particular, uncovering heritage skills and ways of reasoning from these
river communities. Borrowing from the field of science, technology and society (STS), I suggest
examining the historical and ongoing efforts of maintenance and repair through which river
communities contribute to the rich and robust character of the river landscape (Russel & Vinsell, 2016;
Jackson, 2014; Mesman, 2011). Borrowing from conservation studies, I take inspiration from the
principle of reversibility, or minimal intervention, which maintains that projecting the behaviour of a
complex system—such as a river landscapefar into the future is extremely difficult, and that caution is
therefore required (Appelbaum, 1987; Van Saaze, 2013). River repair on a community scale might be
just the scale that the landscape can deal with.
5.3 Learning by doing: bringing climate change action into Colombia’s natural heritage
sites management
For the last decade, we in World Wildlife Fund Colombia, together with an interdisciplinary team from
Colombia’s National Parks Agency and other stakeholders, worked together on co-designing,
implementing, and re-assessing the effectiveness of various approaches to address a wide range of
questions associated with the climate action agenda at Natural Heritage Sites (NHS). Ultimately we
achieved an outstanding milestone in the climate action agenda. We exceeded Colombia’s 2015-
2020 NDC target of expanding the National Protected Areas system by at least 2,5 million hectares
(UNFCCC, 2018), with a final number of 4,7 million hectares declared as protected areas. This sent a
message to the world about the importance of Colombia’s natural heritage in the climate action
agenda. Within this context, this article is written as a learning story that summarises the key factors
that allowed Colombia to reach this milestone.
The birth of climate smart conservation in Colombia’s natural heritage sites (2008-2010)
Back in 2008, our thinking about climate change adaptation practice was based on a vulnerability
based conceptual framework that was favoured by the IPCC (IPCC, 2007). Here our theory of change,
or learning question, was based on solving a puzzleor following the rules. The IPCC’s vulnerability
assessment framework was the puzzle and following the rulesrequired us to assess the vulnerability
of our targeted landscapes to climate change through an analytical approach using the pieces of the
puzzleapproach (WWF, 2009). We did this using an assessment procedure which was similar to a
contextual analysis which had been articulated in the IPCC 2007 report, based on our best available
information and resources.
At this point there are several fundamental points to highlight. The first is related to the difficulty
involved in most of the biodiversity and climate change analyses in the NHS. The second is that the
prevalent practice at that time, using the IPCC conceptual model (AR4), faced serious limitations when
identifying and addressing the priorities of the climate agenda in the NHS.
Second generation of climate action in Colombia’s natural heritage sites (2010-2015)
This second stage of the learning process started around 2011-2012. Both the WWF and the National
Parks Agency became more reflexive, by asking the following questions: Instead of asking if a
landscape is vulnerable to climate changeand by how muchcan we think instead about how much
climate adaptation is needed? What are the guiding principles in adapting to a changing climate?
What do those patterns suggest about future pathways of influence? This learning process in climate
and natural heritage management brought forth an approach that was fundamentally different from
the previous stage: How can we plan a proactive climate adaptation agenda in the NHS? This
question replaces the previous question where we asked, based on the IPCC approach: Are the NHS
vulnerable to climate change?
With this subtle shift in focus, we developed projects that aim to strengthen NHS management by
including climate change as a major driver of landscape and ecosystem transformation at project and
strategic level (WWF, 2016). Building on the skills developed from previous and ongoing projects,
we further developed an approach based on two types of processes: climate risk assessment and
adaptation capacity assessment. These two types of analysis are complementary to each other, and
integration resulted in a more robust and comprehensive approach that is intended to identify actual
or potential impacts of a changing climate on NHS outstanding universal values, and the adaptation
capacity needed to address those risks (WWF, 2015).
Third generation: upscaling and mainstreaming (2016-2020)
In 2014-2015 a third stage of the NHS climate agenda began. Taking the lessons learned from
previous years, and the ongoing negotiation dynamics of the Paris Agreement, it was possible to
scale the results obtained in some protected areas, and advance in an ambitious process of political
influence. The advocacy work pointed to two processes: a) the construction of national commitments
(NDC) to the Paris Agreement; and b) the formulation of a new policy for the national system of
protected areas, including its management planning systems, and the management effectiveness
assessment tools.
In the construction of its NDC, Colombia was one of the first countries in the world to explicitly include
its National System of Protected Areas as one of the main alternatives to achieve the country’s
mitigation and adaptation goals. This position was also supported by a goal: to expand the system
by 2.5 million hectares by 2020. During its first implementation period, the NDC's goal of declaring
new protected areas was met, including the expediting of one of the most significant Natural World
Heritage Sites (due to its size and biodiversity) in the Amazon. In doing so, Colombia has recognised
the role played by the NHS both in mitigation (through carbon capture and sequestration), and
adaptation (for example, through prioritising ecosystems for water regulation that are part of the
System of Protected Areas).
From a domestic (national agenda) perspective, Colombia continued its learning by doing
approach, and in 2019 began a process of formulating a new national policy for the National Parks
System. This policy captures the three main lessons of the learning history highlighted in this paper:
a) the incorporation of the contributions of the NHS into the climate agenda, as part of its conservation
and management objectives (in other words, among the reasons why these natural ecosystems are
of priority interest are their contributions in mitigation and adaptation); b) a clear identification and
evaluation of the climatic risks; and c) the formulation of management strategies that allow both the
conservation of the climatic contributions of the NHS, and the reduction of climatic risks.
Colombia’s initial theory of change was based on the IPCC’s vulnerability conceptual framework
which was applied without modification in its first projects in Natural Heritage Sites management.
However, the use of critical thinking to reflect on the theory-in-use, and the learning process that
ensued, enabled the WWF and the National Parks Agency to let go of and not be ruled by the
vulnerability conceptual framework set out by the IPCC, and to develop an approach that was good
for a proactive and site-based practice. Consequently, identifying new understandings, allowing new
meanings to emerge, shifting our focus to climate solutions, not settling on the first and obvious
solution to the adaptation problem (i.e. assessing climate vulnerability), and continuing to look for
alternative ways of seeing the situation, led to new and more effective action and policies (WWF,
2014). Different questions have arisen for us, such as: Can we deliver, add value, and be accountable
for the climate mitigation and/or adaptation benefits envisioned in our projects? Will our present
biodiversity conservation targets persist in a changing climate? Despite the challenges, the WWF and
the National Parks Agency are continuously evaluating their work on climate smart conservation.
Perhaps the main characteristic to highlight in Colombia’s journey is the continuous evolution of
principles within an environment that has facilitated learning. This has resulted in global leadership in
two essential aspects of the World Heritage Convention: the recognition of the importance of the
conservation and effective management of Natural Heritage Sites for the achievement of the national
goals and commitments of the country to the Paris Agreement; and the need to adjust both the
planning instruments and the measurement of management effectiveness of Natural Heritage Sites.
5.4 Jointly modelling past climate and social systems reveals the dynamics and costs of
socio-ecological transformations
Funded by the European Research Council, we are an interdisciplinary team of archaeologists,
ecologists, and climate scientists (Riede et al., 2020). Our concern is to understand how past human
societies thrived under, or succumbed to, climate change. Our focus is on the periods of time where
direct parallels between past and projected future climatic changes allow us to build joint models:
natural experiments of history that generate evidence-based insights about human responses to
climate change.
Conducting joint climate/society models in the laboratory of the past
Models of past climates have become precise and inform prognoses of future climate change (IPCC,
2021). Global temperature will soon dramatically exceed those experienced by the human societies
of the last 12.000 years: the period corresponding to the geological epoch of the Holocene and the
time in which human civilisations developed. During this time, most people have occupied a limited
environmental niche space (Xu et al., 2020). While agricultural advances may expand this liveability
envelope, future climates will shift it in space and size. These changes will likely result in (a) threatening
declines in agricultural output (Ramankutty et al., 2002), (b) rising needs for costly technological and
governance adaptations (Lyon et al., 2021) and (c) large-scale migration (Black et al., 2011).
With these alarming insights in hand, the warm Pliocene (5.3-2.6 million years ago) or even Eocene
(56-33.9 million years ago) epochs serve as suitable climatic parallels (Burke et al., 2018). Yet,
humanskey agents of environmental and climate change at multiple scales (Ruddiman, 2003;
Meneganzin, Pievani and Caserini, 2020; Ellis et al., 2021)had not yet evolved at these times, making
it impossible to jointly model climate and social systems and their interactions. In contrast, the
Pleistocene (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) and some parts of the Holocene (11,700 to the present)
offer rich paleoclimatic and archaeological data with which to construct extended Earth System
models that include humans, and where episodes of rapid climate change, the repeated emergence
of novel ecosystems
and systemic tipping points (Brovkin et al., 2021) are available for comparative
study (Figure 1).
The novelty of ecosystems is here assessed in relation to historical baselines.
Figure 1: Temperature proxy records from the Eocene to beyond 2200. The Pleistocene and parts of the
Holocene allow direct investigations of the effects of rapid climate change on different human societies.
Redrawn from Burke et al. (2018); the inset graphics show particular sections of the NGRIP temperature proxy
data aligned with different IPCC scenarios: the onset of warming at around 14 kyr BP, the rapid cooling at
12.7kyr BP and the warming at 11.7 kyr BP. Each of these episodes had major impacts on ecosystems and
Numerous modelling techniques have already been applied to understand climate-human relations
(see d’Alpoim Guedes et al., 2016). These studies show that archaeological heritage facilitates an
understanding of how climate change and extremes affected past societies. Underwritten by a
detailed understanding of how human decision-making relates to ecological and social cues as well
as to inherited traditions (Richerson and Boyd, 2005; Henrich, 2018), these analyses highlight that
human communities can be highly resilient to rapid climate change, but also that the pace of change
and the inertia inherent in many cultural systems may constrain adaptability to such a degree that
major societal stress can result. Critically, many past societal transformations entailed demographic
and social consequences (migration, loss of life-quality, mortality, political coercion, and religious
extremism) that are undesirable or outright unacceptable. For instance, there are uncanny parallels
between many well-documented episodes of extreme and prolonged drought that negatively
affected human societies (Kennett et al., 2012; Schwindt et al., 2016; Weiss, 2017) and the recent
compound effects of drought on forest fires, air pollution, human health, economy, and socio-political
instability (Reichstein, Riede and Frank, 2021).
The past as solution archive
Archaeological heritage in the form of diachronically resolved spatial data and socio-ecological
proxies complement traditional ecological knowledge and practices as a form of intangible heritage
pertinent to climate change adaptation (Berkes, Colding and Folke, 2000; Gómez-Baggethun,
Corbera and Reyes-García, 2013). These deep past archives of societyprovide warnings about the
risks associated with rapid climate change as well as pointers as to how we may be able to adapt to
them (Van de Noort, 2013; Gowdy, 2020; Burke et al., 2021; Kaaronen et al., 2021)especially
beyond decadal timescales and vis-vis climatic regimes not captured by instrumental data (Hussain
and Riede, 2020; Crabtree, Dunne and Wood, 2021). Importantly, archaeological data are also
available in regions lacking a long historical record, they are not filtered through the lenses of literate
elites, and they often afford opportunities of detailed biological and geological analysis.
Catalysing generational change through joint modelling and climate/ society literacy
We see policy and education as productive avenues for turning deep-time insights into positive
climate action. Via the IPCC, paleoclimatic data play a vital role in policymaking (Rödder, Heymann,
and Stevens, 2020), yet climate action is not a scientific problem. Modelling efforts should therefore
be extended to joined climate/society modelling using archaeological data (Kohler and Rockman,
2020). This would provide evocative examples of compound risks (cf. Quiggin et al., 2021), stress the
importance of socio-ecological transformations over generational timescales as well as the necessity
for long-range thinking beyond the limits of current climate scenarios (Fox, Pope, and Ellis, 2017; Lyon
et al., 2021).
Focusing on societal change across generations highlights the importance of education. Values and
worldviews are in part constructed with stories of our pasts in mind. Bringing the archives of nature
and the archives of societytogether, we can tell empirically grounded stories of past resilience and
impact and, on this basis, tell similar stories of the future (Figure 2). Such evidence-based story-lining
will boost the societal relevance of climate change science across different publics (e.g. Bloomfield
and Manktelow, 2021), while also cultivating forms of deep-time climate literacythat would, in turn,
impact personal and political decision-making. Here, formal and informal education in classrooms
(Riede et al., 2016; Leichenko and O’Brien, 2020) and museums act as interfaces between the
scientific community and the public at large, with the potential to catalyse climate action and support
sustainable development (Cameron, Hodge and Salazar, 2013; Rees, 2017).
Figure 2: Aligning the ‘archives of nature’ such as temperature proxy data derived from ice cores or other
records and the ‘archives of society’ in the form of archaeological heritage for jointly modelling the two-way
interactions between climate change and human societies. Modified from Burke et al. (2021).
5.5 Stewarding change with values, voices, and art
A.R. Siders
I am a climate adaptation scholar at the University of Delaware, USA. My research seeks to
understand how people make decisions about where, when, and how to adapt to climate change
and to evaluate the effects of those decisions (e.g., Siders, 2018, 2019; Mach and Siders, 2021; Siders
and Pierce, 2021). Heritageboth tangible heritage such as buildings and landscapes and intangible
heritage such as traditional practices and languageis an important component of this research
because heritage shapes whether and how adaptation occurs (see, e.g., Graham et al., 2014; Adger,
2016; Clarke, Murphy and Lorenzoni, 2018; Marino, 2018; Mcnamara et al., 2018; Thaler et al., 2019;
Lau et al., 2021; Mallette et al., 2021) and because climate change and adaptation actions threaten,
destroy, protect, alter, (re)interpret, and create heritage (see, e.g., Mattsson and Haugen, 2011;
Brown, 2012; Berenfeld, 2015; Rockman and Maase, 2017; Dawson et al., 2020; DeSilvey et al., 2021).
The constellation of connections between heritage and adaptation offers new concepts, lenses,
literatures, methods, and practices to leverage in finding solutions for the challenges facing both
Prioritising, not preventing, change
As a climate adaptation scholar, interacting with heritage scholarship and practitioners has changed
the way I think about the purpose of climate adaptation. Rather than limit or leverage the effects of
climate change to protect existing systems and structures, the purpose of climate adaptationlike
heritage stewardshipis to choose, within constraints, which elements of the system are maintained,
which are allowed to change, and which are purposefully altered. The heritage field recognises that
not everything can or will be preserved, nor would complete preservation necessarily be desirable
as it could stagnate the ability of places, societies, and systems to grow in ways that give heritage its
meaning (see, e.g., Siders and Rockman, in press; Berenfeld, 2015; Dawson et al., 2020; DeSilvey et
al., 2021). The purpose of heritage management is not to lock landscapes, practices, or buildings in
stasis but to steward the rate and type of change they experience. This view, that the role of adaptation
is to prioritise rather than prevent change, has emerged in natural resources management
(Schuurman et al., 2020) and in conversations about transformative adaptation that focus on the
degree, nature, and distribution of change that is necessary or desirable within a system and the
processes by which ‘necessary’ and ‘desirable’ are determined (e.g., Kates et al., 2012; Blythe et al.,
2018; Ajulo, von Meding and Tang, 2019; Thaler et al., 2019; Siders, Ajibade and Casagrande, 2021).
Nevertheless, according to a recent global stocktake of academically documented adaptation, the
vast majority of adaptation in practice is so incremental as to be difficult to distinguish from business-
as-usual (e.g., irrigating fields in water-scarce regions or drinking water during heatwaves) (Berrang-
Ford et al., 2021). This may suggest that adaptation is currently used largely to limit the extent to
which climate change causes social change.
Prioritising change requires an understanding of the things people value: what they are willing to
change and what they are not. Values are often implicit or unstated, and explicitly identifying values
can improve adaptation. For example, in the context of managed retreat, flipping the conversation
from ‘why move’ to ‘why stay’ focuses attention on why it is important to people to remain in a
particular place (why a site is not substitutable) (Siders and Rockman, in press; Costas, Ferreira and
Martinez, 2015; Mach and Siders, 2021). When those reasons are explicit, adaptation efforts can be
more appropriately targeted, whether people stay or go. A person who is unwilling to abandon a
historic family home might be willing to relocate the building to protect it from rising tides or harsher
floods, and relocation programmes can be tailored to support this option (see., e.g., CMSWS, 2015;
Siders and Gerber-Chavez, 2021). A community who values coastal access and ecosystems might
choose strategic relocation over modes of shoreline armoring that could disrupt attachment to place
(see, e.g., Clarke, Murphy and Lorenzoni, 2018). Even when it is not possible to preserve the things or
places people value, identifying those values signals a need to recognise the loss and support grief
(e.g., Mcnamara et al., 2018; Tschakert et al., 2019; Mach and Siders, 2021). Disaster memorials, for
example, may help people process loss by acknowledging and validating what has been lost and by
creating a shared community memory (e.g., Eyre, 2006; Randall, 2009; Bauman, 2015; Moulton,
2015; Zavar, 2019).
A common challenge: choosing equitably
The challengeone common to heritage and adaptationis to make decisions about what is
preserved, what is allowed to change, and what is purposefully altered in ways that do not privilege
groups or perpetuate inequities. Heritage as a field has not solved this problem (indeed, the very act
of identifying heritage has privileged certain groups and histories), but the field has experience
grappling with concerns such as how to preserve a diverse range of natural wonders and cultures,
not just those of colonial powers (see Knudsen et al., 2021), or whether the divide between natural
and cultural heritage undervalues Indigenous perspectives and histories (see Harmsworth and
Awatere, 2013). Climate adaptation scholarship has acknowledged that adaptation actions may
privilege the wealthy or powerful (e.g., Adger et al., 2006; Graham et al., 2014; Clement, Rey-Valette
and Rulleau, 2015; Adger, 2016; Anguelovski et al., 2016; Thaler et al., 2018), as when adaptation
decisions based on property values perpetuate historical injustices that have devalued the properties
of certain groups (e.g., Muñoz and Tate, 2016; Tate et al., 2016; Siders, 2018; Ajibade, 2019).
Adaptation has begun to confront these challenges, and its conversations could leverage the lessons
already learned in heritage studies, while heritage studies could benefit from the broad stakeholders
and perspectives of adaptation studies.
Decisions about what to change and what to preserve are not scientific ones. The decisions may be
informed by science, but ultimately, they are social, ethical, value-based decisions about who
individuals, peoples, decision-makers, and societies want to be. They are shaped by power dynamics,
history, and heritage. Any effort, for example, to determine where relocation ‘should’ occur as an
adaptation strategy inherently involves decisions about which cultures ‘should’ be preserved, which
injustices should be addressed or exacerbated, who has power and access to realise their
preferences, and how just society seeks to be (among other things) (Mach and Siders, 2021).
Adaptation science recognises that individual and community values and perceptions of fairness
drive adaptation decisions, but work is still needed to integrate these insights into practice (Adger,
2016; Orlove et al., 2020; Lau et al., 2021). Addressing the power dynamics, history, and norms that
shape adaptation decisions may first require the field to acknowledge and address calls to decolonise
adaptation and climate science (e.g., Bronen and Cochran, 2021; Nwaka, 2021), to integrate
traditional, Indigenous, and other modes of knowledge (e.g., Ford et al., 2016; Whyte, 2017), and to
increase the identities, lived experiences, and disciplines represented and respected in climate
science (e.g., Pearson and Schuldt, 2014).
Leveraging art
Art and heritage offer a variety of ways to support climate science and adaptation. Reading climate
fiction can change the way people think about climate justice and climate migrants (Schneider-
Mayerson, 2020). Disaster and climate films raise risk awareness and spark debates about how
people and places are portrayed and valued, both on the screen and in practice (see, e.g., Welk von
Mossner, 2012; Maclear, 2018). Computer, video, and board games about climate change can be
powerful education and communication tools (Wu and Lee, 2015; Kwok, 2019), and video game
engines can be used to visualise future climate conditions (Kolb et al., 2018; Huang et al., 2021).
Fiction and non-fiction narratives shape climate scenariossuch as the Shared Socioeconomic
Pathways (Nikoleris, Stripple and Tenngart, 2017)and greater integration of artistic creativity into
climate scenarios may help adaptation planning address a wider range of strategies (Siders, 2019;
Mach and Siders, 2021). The French military hired science fiction writers for this same reason: to
imagine a wider range of plausible threats and thereby improve their innovation and strategic
planning. Positive visions, in particular, can serve as ‘thought experiments’ to explore the potential
implications of adaptation pathways: adaptation scholars are well-versed in the potential for
maladaptation, and fiction and scenario planning may provide tools to avoid or limit surprise
downsides (Robinson, 2021). Positive visions can also serve as motivating goals for which to strive.
Art and heritage can help remind people of their shared values and inspire future action. Consider,
for example, the Talanoa Dialogue initiated by Fiji at UNFCCC COP23 that began conversations
about climate action with heritage to establish a sense of shared history (UNFCCC, 2018). The
Netherlands’ Watersnood Museum memorialises the 1953 storm that inspired a revitalisation of the
nation’s water management systemnow one of the world’s foremost exemplarsand educates new
generations about the importance of flood management (on how I interpreted this site, see, Siders,
2017). Over time, the act of adapting (or not) itself becomes a part of peoples’ evolving identity and
heritage. Heritage may help people process the emotions associated with adapting in placee.g., to
deal with solastalgia, the pain of watching one’s environment alter (Albrecht et al., 2007; Warsini, Mills
and Usher, 2014)or with relocation. As someone who studies climate relocation, I am particularly
intrigued by the potential for heritage to help people to maintain identity and place attachment after
relocation (e.g., through continued practice of cultural traditions), to alter the nature of place
attachment (e.g., through use of risk-prone lands for hunting or recreation rather than residence), to
create attachments to new places, or to un-make place attachment and grieve for places and heritage
that are lost.
In short, climate adaptation and heritage are both involved in the stewardship of social change. How
people choose to change social systems (who, how, when, where, and how much) will be informed
by and affect heritage, and the common challenge for adaptation and heritage is to make these
decisions equitably. Heritage and art offer tools and insights to communicate the science and identify
the shared values that will underpin these choices. Exploring the connections between heritage and
adaptation offers opportunities to improve our ability to process the losses we will experience as a
result of climate change and to help us through the transformations still to come.
5.6 Rethinking vulnerability and adaptation to climate change as if peoples’ histories and
aspirations mattered
Chandni Singh
I am a senior researcher at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore, working on issues
at the intersection of climate change adaptation and development in rural and urban areas. As a
trained botanist with a master’s degree in natural resource management, and PhD in the social
dimensions of climate change adaptation, I am continuously straddling my natural science training
with a social scientist leaning.
I began my career working with Indigenous communities in Himalayan villages, examining change in
those climate-sensitive socio-ecological systems. I implemented infrastructural, institutional, and
ecosystem-based solutions, which demonstrated how different knowledge systems privilege certain
solutions (Adger et al., 2013; Conway et al., 2019; Singh et al., 2021) and how every sustainability
pathway involves trade-offs for certain people and places over time.
Climate change vulnerability and adaptation pathways are place-based and historically informed
In subsequent doctoral and postdoctoral research, I continued to examine adaptation pathways,
focusing on how risk perceptions around water scarcity and climate variability interact with pre-
existing differential vulnerability to shape how and why some people choose to adapt or not. Building
upon climate change vulnerability and adaptation research (Tschakert, 2007; Ribot, 2010; Taylor,
2014; Turner, 2016) and gender studies (Agarwal, 1992; Denton, 2002; MacGregor, 2010; Arora-
Jonsson, 2011; Tschakert and Machado, 2012; Alston, 2014; Carr and Thompson, 2014; Moosa and
Tuana, 2014; Sultana, 2014; Ravera et al., 2016; Rao and Hans, 2018), my work emphasises that
vulnerabilities based on gender, caste, income, and ethnicity, shape current and future livelihood and
adaptation choices (Gajjar, Singh and Deshpande, 2019; Rao et al., 2019; Singh, 2019, 2021; Singh
and Basu, 2020; Singh, Solomon and Rao, 2021; Solomon, Singh and Islam, 2021).
Inclusive adaptation pathways: values of equity and justice
Every adaptation pathway contains path dependencies and inherent trade-offs, which can ameliorate
or entrench inequities (Burnham et al., 2013; Forsyth, 2014; Gajjar, Singh and Deshpande, 2019). The
climate justice literature argues that poor attention to distributional, procedural, and recognitional
justice, and inadequate mechanisms to address knowledge and funding asymmetries, can lead to
potentially maladaptive solutions (Magnan, Schipper and Duvat, 2020; Malloy and Ashcraft, 2020;
Schipper, 2020; Byskov et al., 2021). Thus, adaptation planners must acknowledge how certain
development trajectories and climate solutions acquire dominance, and then empower normative
alternatives that are more inclusive. In practice, this means that when reading and encountering
different solutions and visions of our cities and neighbourhoods, homes, and research institutions, we
need to ask: Whose vision is this? Who is getting excluded? And how can we pluralise this dialogue?
One of the emerging ways to pluralise is to recognise how individual and collective adaptation
choices are embedded in socio-culturally informed values, norms, and aspirations (Grothmann and
Patt, 2005; Singh, Dorward and Osbahr, 2016). The uptake and effectiveness of different behavioural
approaches for adaptation (e.g., climate literacy, behavioural nudges, legal instruments) are
significantly mediated by how well they ‘fit contextual and psycho-social factors influencing
adaptation choices. Overall, adaptation that accounts for risk perceptions and aligns with public
values are more likely to be socio-culturally acceptable and facilitate behavioural change (van
Valkengoed and Steg, 2019).
Second, the adaptation literature is increasingly acknowledging the need for deep, systemic change,
i.e., transformative action (Fedele et al., 2019; Scoones et al., 2020; O’Brien, 2021) that leverages a
range of adaptation, mitigation, and development solutions simultaneously. Here, nature-based
solutions have emerged as key interventions that move beyond technocratic, top-down visions of
climate-resilient development futures to forefront solutions that support livelihoods and ecosystems
(Kabisch et al., 2016; Woroniecki et al., 2020; Palomo et al., 2021). One example is my work on urban
agriculture. Deeply personal choices to grow one’s own food, recycle greywater, and compost waste,
though small and fragmented across the city, have multiple benefits for urban sustainability (e.g.,
regulating indoor temperatures, improving biodiversity) and wellbeing (e.g., food and nutritional
security, increased environmental awareness) (Zasada et al., 2020). Such citizen-led actions are
reimagining urban food systems, signalling bottom-up transformations that can accrue to meet urban
sustainability goals in personally meaningful and emancipatory ways (Singh and Gajjar-Pahwa, 2021).
A manifesto to pluralise climate vulnerability and adaptation research:
1. The need for unprecedented, transformative action: The IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C
argues that we can no longer think in binaries of adaptation versus mitigation; individual
versus systemic action. This acknowledgement of the scale and speed of the climate
challenge highlights the need to prioritise solutions that meet multiple, long-term goals for
most people and species, and minimise the chance of maladaptation. The report concludes
that feasible adaptation and mitigation solutions exist (de Coninck et al., 2018) but their
implementation needs to be enabled, through more equitable financing, behavioural
change, technological innovation, and inclusive institutions. Thus, the challenge of
transformative action is not so much a lack of information about what to do but more an issue
of inadequate enabling environments to do it effectively and inclusively.
2. ‘Scaling up’ is not the only route to transformation: While the challenge is grand and often
overwhelming, transformative action can and must be at multiple scales, where individual
action is nested within broader and deeper institutional and normative shifts. While scaling
solutions vertically and horizontally is crucial, scaling deep(Moore, Riddell and Vocisano,
2015)through a change in norms, beliefs, and valuesis as important. O’Brien (2017, p. 97),
envisions transformation as change that attends equally to the inner life of human beings,
human behaviour, and the social systems and structures in which they exist, visualised as
three spheres: the personal (individual and shared assumptions, beliefs, values, worldviews
and paradigms, which have a strong influence on the objectives of systems and on ideas
about who can and should benefit); the practical (technical and behavioural interventions,
e.g. climate solutions such as renewable energy or early warning systems); and the political
(i.e. the institutional architecture of decisions, rules, regulations, norms, agreements that
mediate the personal and practical spheres). Collectively, these spheres articulate an action-
oriented way of enabling societal change and identifying the conditions that support or
constrain transformations and provide a practical way of reconciling debates between
individual action versus systemic changes (O’Brien, 2017).
3. Pluralise methodologies, challenge knowledge hierarchies: One of the key issues around
understanding socially differentiated vulnerability to climatic risks is that the methodologies
used to assess vulnerability (and adaptive capacity) remain static and recall-based rather than
temporal and relational (Ford et al., 2010; Turner, 2016; Singh, Deshpande and Basu, 2017;
Singh et al., 2019). This is antithetical to what we see and experience: people, nature, culture,
and aspirations are neither static nor unidirectional(Tebboth et al., 2018; Few et al., 2021).
Recognising and correcting this is critical because the methods we choose to assess
vulnerability and adaptation outcomes hold power and inform adaptation funding and
prioritisation, making and unmaking peoples’ agency in the process (Singh et al., 2019, 2021).
Linked to this is the inequity in knowledge production for climate action. Climate change research
replicates existing unequal and often extractive knowledge hierarchies based on geography,
gender, race and ethnicity, language, and funding (Nagendra et al., 2018; Bronen and Cochran,
2021; Overland et al., 2021; Trisos, Auerbach and Katti, 2021). Addressing these asymmetries is a
foundational step towards restoration (for those marginalised by histories of exclusion and
extraction); inclusion (of multiple knowledge systems beyond the technocratic/Western/
Anglophone); and transformational change (that is forward-looking and fit to meet the challenge of
climate change).
5.7 The heritage of meteorological IKS and its impact on climate change
Pindai Sithole and Moses Chundu
The authors are with the Africa Leadership and Management Academy (ALMA), an affiliate college of
the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Zimbabwe. Pindai Sithole is the Programs
Director and Social Researcher, whilst Moses Chundu is the ALMA Executive Director and a
development economist. As sustainable development practitioners, we both have a passion for
exploring Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), and to date we have jointly published in this area
looking at the role of meteorological IKS in weather prediction, disaster preparedness, community
livelihoods, and mitigation of adverse effects of climate change. Through ALMA’s IKS Unit, we are
part of a regional consortium of over 20 universities in Africa called the African Institute for Indigenous
Knowledge Systems (AIIKS), a category 2 UNESCO organisation, collaborating in spearheading IKS
research, scholarship and practice.
The role of meteorological IKS in the preservation of heritage and in adaptation
Our research on meteorological IKS, a critical heritage for communities in southern Africa, focused
on the districts of Chimanimani in Zimbabwe and Salima in Malawi. Meteorological IKS studies were
conducted in both districts in 2019. The studies sought to establish the extent of use and efficacy of
meteorological IKS for the prediction of rainfall in these unique socio-cultural contexts, and to explore
the potential contribution of meteorological IKS in local community disaster preparedness within the
context of the adverse effects of climatic change. Both regions had experienced a trail of
unprecedented human and environmental destruction following the devastating Cyclone Idai in
April of 2019, among other natural disasters. Despite the existence of IKS and modern weather
forecasting tools, these climate-induced disasters seem to have caught both communities and
governments unprepared, prompting our enquiry from an IKS perspective.
Historically, and still today, farmers in Africa and India have use Indigenous knowledge (IK) to
understand weather and climate patterns, in order to make informed decisions about crop
production and irrigation cycles (Rengalakshmi, 2007). This knowledge is adapted to local conditions
and needs, and has been accumulated through decades of experience (Garay-Barayazarra and Puri,
2011; Pareek and Trivedi, 2011). Notwithstanding the dominance over centuries of conventional
methods in predicting weather patterns, there is abundant agrometeorological evidence in Africa
and Asia that farmers have developed and relied on their own IKS to adapt their livelihoods to variable
rainfall patterns (Garay-Barayazarra and Puri, 2011; Risiro et al., 2012; Okonya and Croschel, 2013;
Zuma-Netshiukhwi, Stigter and Walker, 2013; Rautela and Karki, 2015). The scholarship on this
subject matter shows that IK systems, including those related to rainfall and disaster prediction,
worked for centuries in these communities. There is consensus among scholars (Risiro et al., 2012;
Kaya and Seleti, 2013; Soropa et al., 2015) that key success factors for IKS are that they relate to local
lifestyles, institutional patterns, socio-cultural cosmology, ecology, and the historical rootedness of
The communities studied in this body of work have their own IKS for predicting weather which, in
itself, is a dimension of knowledge plurality/democracyin the sense of understanding intangible
heritage beyond conventional knowledge systems. However, our studies revealed the tragedy of
increasing loss of this IK and its decline in application through generations. This is because IKS in most
communities in the Global South are diluted or overshadowed by Western epistemologies preached
and enforced during colonial and postcolonial eras (Logan, 2008; Mapara, 2009; Sithole, 2020). In
some instances, this dehumanisation of the colonies’ own IKS became part of mainstream colonial
practices, as evidenced by the deliberate exclusion of the local communities’ IKS from the education
systems (Muchena, 1990; Shizha, 2013). This situation was born out of the Western
dominant/superiority attitude, which accounted for the imposition of their own knowledge systems
on the local citizens (Logan, 2008).
We employed Exploratory Concurrent Mixed Methods (ECMM) to collect data from a diversity of
respondents, comprising community traditional leaders, elders, and the youth, using in-depth
interviews, focus group discussions, and storytelling. The descriptions of the predictors used to
predict rainfall or disasters formed the qualitative data for our study, whilst the estimated weather
prediction probabilities based on these predictors constituted the quantitative component of the
study—hence the ECMM methodology. Thematic analysis looked at local interpretive and ontological
paradigms. The meteorological IKS found in these two communities were classified into five
interpretive categories: flora, fauna, clouds, wind, and the planetary system. Most of the predictors
show high predictive power, averaging 70% accuracyhence the communities’ reliance on them
over the centuries. However, our research concluded that meteorological IKS are no longer widely
used due to a number of factors, including inferioritisation and limited documentation. We also noted
that the IKS have potential for incorporation disaster preparedness frameworks into the community,
especially given the changing climatic conditions (Sithole and Chundu, 2020; Sithole, Chundu and
Moyo, 2021). We consider meteorological IKS to be an intangible cultural heritage involving diverse
knowledge systems and climate change. Such intangible cultural heritage includes practices,
representations, expressions, knowledge, and skills inherited from our ancestors and passed on to
our descendants. This is directly linked to natural heritage, which encompasses geological and other
natural featuresand in turn supports biodiversity, and human systems, as they are closely linked and
mutually reinforcing.
We believe local IK plays an important role in sustaining, conserving, and managing the environment,
because its features are largely geophysical. This explains one of the conclusions from our study: that
meteorological IKS are intricately dependent on the preservation of the natural environment. We
found that, to the extent the predictors of rainfall and disaster are specific to certain species, this
invariably means that issues of environmental conservation are dealt with simultaneously in the
communities (Sithole and Chundu, 2020; Sithole, Chundu and Moyo, 2021). In fact, in African cultural
practices, the preservation of this traditional Indigenous heritage is in itself an embedded mechanism
to preserve plant and animal species in the communities (Kaya and Koitsiwe, 2016). Notably, most of
the indicators used in the IKS carry a sacred status in the communities of reference, which guarantees
preservation of the flora and fauna without the need for modern/colonial laws or policies to enforce
environmental conservation.
Given that climatic changes are largely destructive, this locates meteorological IKS as a valuable
intangible heritage that alerts communities to prepare for the impending disaster, including ensuring
that community tangible heritage is not destroyed. In other words, on the one hand, the conservation
of the natural physical environment (tangible heritage) gives life to the indicators of IKS (intangible
heritage) in the community. On the other hand, since fauna and flora are the predominant categories
of weather predictors, entrenching meteorological IKS and giving it prominence, means indirectly
encouraging local communities to preserve most of the species used as predicators. The
preservation of biodiversity plays a critical role in carbon sequestration towards easing the extent of
global warming and its dire consequences. Thus, the intangible heritage of meteorological IKS plays
a critical role in decarbonisation and in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. There is also
an added advantage via the preservation of medicinal plants as a community health heritage
(Ghorbanpour and Varma, 2017). In this way, IKS demonstrates the capacity for culture and heritage
to serve as enablers of climate resilience and adaptation (Harvey and Perry, 2015).
We concluded that modern weather prediction information, if not communicated in a timely fashion,
is of little help in respect of rural and remote communities’ state of preparedness for climate disasters.
For most of Africa, connectivity remains a challengehence the need for governments, especially in
Africa, to integrate Indigenous weather forecasting systems into the mainstream, recognising it as
complementary to modern scientific systems. When IKS are considered, this will promote knowledge
democracy and justice for the heritage sustenance of our planet earth. Meteorological IKS could also
be mainstreamed into the education curricula as a way of preserving, modernising and utilising this
knowledge which is fast going extinct. Since meteorological IKS depends on the behaviour of the
local biosphere, we recommend that there be global efforts to preserve Indigenous environments.
Systematic documentation of meteorological IKS across regions in the worldespecially in the Global
Southcould be another way of ensuring that meteorological IKS is not relegated to the periphery of
modern knowledge discourse. The diverse vaccines developed in response to the COVID-19
pandemic are a clear testimony to the fact that knowledge plurality is the way to gotoday and in the
5.8 Inspiring good practices: A database to trigger the energy-efficient renovation of
historic buildings
Alexandra Troi and Franziska Haas
We both work at the intersection between engineering, architecture and building conservation.
Alexandra Troi has a background in engineering and early in her carrier started to work at the
interface between engineering and conservationfor example, in her PhD on Church Heating: a
balancing act between comfort, cost and conservation. She currently leads the research group on
Energy Retrofit in Historic Buildings at Eurac Research and holds a professorship in simulation
building physics at Coburg University. Franziska Haas trained as an architect and has worked as a
professional in archaeology and conservation, and as a researcher at Dresden University. Since 2015
she has collaborated with Alexandra’s research group at Eurac Research. In 2020 she was elected as
president of the ICOMOS’s Scientific Committee on Energy, Sustainability and Climate Change.
Within the research group on Energy Retrofit of Historic Buildings, architects, engineers, physicists,
and conservators work together to let our built heritage contribute to a sustainable future. For the
purposes of this white paper, we will focus on an ongoing project, the Historic Building Energy Retrofit
Atlas (HiBERatlas; available at It compiles cases of
building renovation that are exemplary both in terms of heritage conservation and energy efficiency
to inspire and foster energy retrofits. The HiBERatlas addresses climate change first in terms of
mitigation. It provides technical solutions, but goes beyond that by making deep renovation of
historic buildings happen (Haas, et al., 2021). We consider this a best practice case study for five
1. There is enormous potential for saving energy in the historic stock. If we consider not only
those historic buildings that are formally listed, but also the wider range of buildings with
elements and characteristics worthy of preservationan approach postulated by EN 16883
(2017)there are 55 million dwellings in Europe alone. This corresponds to 25% of the overall
stock and an output of 250 Mt CO2 per year, of which 75% could be avoided without losing
the buildings’ heritage value (Troi, 2011). Solutions have to be found for each building,
adapted to its specific characteristicsand here is where the HiBERatlas can contribute, with
good examples that can inspire, showing possibilities and offering technical solutions related
to a specific context (Haas, et al., 2021).
2. The New European Bauhaus initiative has recognised the importance of the cultural
dimension in driving a wave of renovation. This cultural dimension has always been important
in the care of the historic building stock: renovations of historic buildings can thus become a
model for any energy efficiency measure. As pointed out in the European Cultural Heritage
Green Paper (Potts, 2021), sensitively retrofitting Europe’s historic buildings while preserving
Europe’s unique selling pointits cultural heritageprovides extraordinary opportunity to
promote a post-COVID19 economic recovery. It can and should be a lighthouse project in
the Next Generation EU initiative, advancing simultaneously climate action, just transition and
social cohesion. This is not only the case for Europe, but could be a guiding principle for the
rest of the world.
3. The discipline of heritage preservation has developed methods and technologies for the
long-term preservation of historic structures. Understanding that maintaining the existing
fabric is always better than demolition and new construction (for reasons of embodied
carbon, resource efficiency, and air pollution), such methods can be widely applied. The
HiBERatlas shows the active role culture and heritage can take in transformative change, and
the capacity of heritage approaches to feed into sustainable climate action.
4. Traditional buildings were constructed with local materials and adapted to local conditions.
In the HiBERatlas, we can see a trend towards the use of ecological materials based on local
conditions. These culture-based solutions may be of interest for application far beyond the
historic building stock. The approach feeds well into the life cycle and circular economy
discussions on an international level, proposing well-established and long-term proven
solutions, and a mindset which is intrinsically conserving and not wasting.
5. The energy-efficient renovation of historic buildings has always been a deeply
interdisciplinary task: preservationists, technicians, engineers, architects, and building owners
must work together to develop solutions that are socially, ecologically, economically, and
culturally sustainable. Many examples for interdisciplinary planning processes and the related
effects are described in the HiBERatlas.
By giving people living in historic buildings a stage to show and describe what they appreciate in their
buildings, and how they preserved these existential values (Coeterier, 2002), the HiBERatlas
promotes a bottom-up approach to heritage value perception, and a peer-to-peer learning process.
As Herrera-Avellanosa et al. (2019) conclude, we will only be able to speed up the transformation
process and increase the quality of renovations if, in future research, we not only focus on technical
and economic aspects, but also pay attention to how decision makers can be motivated, guided and
ultimately helped to implement energy-efficient measures in historic buildings. The HiBERatlas not
only shows the potential which lies in the historic building stock to contribute to climate change
mitigation and a sustainable future, but also triggers climate action led by cultural heritage.
6. Talking points
6.1 Learning from Indigenous and local knowledge systems: Skills, technologies, land
management practices
Historically, modernity has tended to ride roughshod over local livelihoods, bodies of knowledge,
and ways of being, replacing this rich and various archive with, frequently, homogenous
commodities, centralised production processes, and unsustainable extractive technologies and
supply-chains (Escobar, 2008; Mignolo, 2011). Indigenous and local knowledge systems offer many
examples of skills, technologies, materials usages, land management practices, and the like, that are
of utility in finding solutions to aspects of anthropogenic climate change (Carmen, this report; Ernsten,
this report; Sithole and Chundu, this report; Troi and Haas, this report). In many cases, these are based
on particularly local, historically based observations and understandings, accumulated across
generations. Turning to, and opening, this historically neglected and under-valued archive is an
inherently exciting line of investigation that offers great potential in the search for solutions (Pindai
and Chundu, this report; Troi and Haas, this report). At the same time, key questions apply around
intellectual property and terms of engagement. What does it mean to selectively adopt elements of
Indigenous and local knowledges, without adopting their contextualising world views and value
systems (Carmen, this report)? Historically, local and Indigenous knowledge have been subalternised
as knowledge systems through processes of colonialism and imperialism (in the Global South), and
through the advance of a form of modernisation that systematically displaced local knowledges and
production processes (in both the Global North and the Global South). How can we ensure that these
historical relationships of exploitation are not recapitulated in the contemporary engagement with
local and Indigenous knowledge around solutions to anthropogenic climate change?
6.2 Learning from Indigenous and local knowledge systems: Values, forms of
relatedness, ways of knowing
The critique of extractivism and unsustainable development, and of the values and worldviews that
sustain such practices, is by now well established. Both historical and contemporary Indigenous and
local knowledge systems offer a rich archive of alternative values, approaches, understandings, and
forms of relatedness. Many of these challenge foundational modern understandings that humans
stand apart from other beings, and from the natural worlds that sustain us (Carmen, this report). A
strong argument can be made for the case that finding and sustaining solutions to the negative effects
of anthropogenic climate change at the required scale, involves changing foundational values and
behaviors (Singh, this report). We can draw inspiration from the archive of local and IKS, finding
analogues for sustainable lifestyles and alternative value systems, however the same caveats apply.
How do we create the conditions for such an engagement, based on mutual respect and non-
exploitative relations?
6.3 Transforming pedagogies: A curriculum for the Anthropocene
In his influential and widely cited essay, The Climate of History, postcolonial historian Dipesh
Chakrabarty makes a startling admission. He writes: As the crisis gathered momentum in the last few
years, I realized that all of my readings in theories of globalization, Marxist analysis of capital, subaltern
studies, and postcolonial criticism over the last twenty-five years, while enormously useful in studying
globalisation, had not prepared me for the making sense of this planetary conjunction within which
humanity finds itself today(Chakrabarty, 2009 p.199). As we exit the Holocene and enter the
Anthropocene, we need to revisit curricula, and consider the kind of education that will be useful and
relevant to future generations (Riede, this report; Singh, this report; Sithole and Chundu, this report).
In an immediate way, there is a need for Anthropocene literacies, an understanding of core concepts
and basic scientific processes connected to researching the climate emergency (like tipping points,
planetary boundaries, and the notion of the Anthropocene itself). Such literacies become important
for active, informed citizenship, and for bringing to bear the kinds of public, political pressures that
translate into policy changes (Riede, this report). In a more general way, there is a pressing need to
revise and rethink some of the grand narratives through which histories of modernity are taught.
Narratives around industrialisation, modernisation, progress and development need to be revised to
take account of the social and environmental costs of such developments over the last 500-years and
Many commentators have argued that discussions of climate change should not be left to climate
scientists alone. The ramifying effects of climate change will affect every aspect of human endeavour
(Siders, this report). Curricula in the arts, literature, and philosophy need to be rethought, as much as
those in engineering and the sciences. Attention might turn not only to what we teach, but how we
teach. Arguably, distanced and dispassionate approaches to knowledge, premised on an essential
distance between subject and object, are part of the core problem of climate changea problem in
which we become passive bystanders to a catastrophe. Arguably too, the white cubeof the seminar
room is not the best environment through which to evolve more personally and materially implicated
understandings of the world. Conversations might be had around ways of knowing’: around those
moments when a distance and objective approach to knowledge serves us well, and the moments
when we need a more intimate, subjective, and feelingapproach (Guevara, this report). Equally,
conversations might focus on the relationship between science, knowledge, and wisdom. Are there
forms of knowledge and wisdom that do not grow out of empirically-based scientific methods, but
out of other sourcesfor example, experience (Carmen, this report; Ernsten, this report; Sithole and
Chundu, this report; Troi and Haas, this report)? And does this help us to rethink the conventional
distinction between science, local knowledge and IKS?
6.4 Mobilising the affective power of heritage
In all of its different formssites, memorials, material cultures, practices of everyday lifeheritage is
typically characterised by deep affective involvements (Siders, this report). There is a sense that
heritage matters to people, at both an individual and collective level. This makes heritage a potent
site of claim-making, as groups mobilise around heritage in the course of struggles around rights,
resources and representation. Interestingly, this operates on both the political right and left: for
example, in populist mobilisations of heritage in the pursuit of identitarian claims, and in Indigenous
mobilisations of heritage in pursuit of sovereignty and territory. This affective power of heritage
becomes a potentially powerful resource in mobilising for climate action. The notion of world
heritage provides us with a ready-made concept through which to think about shared destinies and
responsibilities. Heritage’s core duty of care might be extended to the planet as a whole, and its life-
forms and bio-physical processes. At the same time, some important questions apply. What does it
mean to invoke a concept of world heritage in the face of manifest global social and economic
inequality? What does it mean to share a heritage, when other thingswealth and vaccinesare not
shared, or only grudgingly shared?
In moments of peril, such as the climate emergency, typically we have two choices. Either we close
ranks, falling back on the solidarity of the clan, the nation, and the region. Or we open out, building
alliances, pooling resources, and seeking dialogue. The nature and scale of the climate emergency
make the second option by far the preferred option, in the sense of the option that holds the greater
chance of success for the majority of humanity. In this sense, the political struggle around the climate
emergency is the struggle for multilateralism, dialogue, and cooperation, in the face of populist
attempts to use a moment of historical anxiety for narrowly sectarian ends. From a heritage
perspective, the question of relevance is how do we mobilise the affective power of heritage in
support of open, creative, and inclusive futures. Arguably, this involves focusing on a different kind of
heritage, less concerned with national sites and symbols. For example, this might include the heritage
of human rights, the heritage of anti-racism, the heritage of the extraordinary vaccination campaigns
of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the heritage of labour rights and workplace reforms, the
heritage of the struggle to protect biodiversity and threatened habitats, and the heritage of science
itself and the extraordinary advances in knowledge that it has enabled, understood as shared human
6.5 Producing socially and historically contextualised accounts of anthropogenic climate
One of the most important contributions that a heritage perspective can make, lies in producing
socially and historically contextualised accounts of anthropogenic climate change. Anthropogenic
climate change itself has a history, that has involved and impacted populations and territories across
the globe in different ways, depending on their position in relation to some of the defining historical
forces of our times: modernity, colonialism, imperialism, nationalism, racial slavery, industrialisation,
urbanisation, postcolonialism, deindustrialisation, and many others. While a case can be made for
looking at the mounting scale of human impacts through the Holocene, understanding
anthropogenic climate change as an historically situated phenomenon involves looking, in the first
instance, at the long-500 yearspost-1492: the period characterised by the expansion of Europe, the
subsumption of myriad local systems of production within an increasingly global system of
production and consumption, and the progressive acceleration of human impacts on social and
natural worlds, and on the earth’s biophysical processes. It also involves understanding
anthropogenic climate change as a process that, historically, has differently involved and impacted
populations and territories in the Global North and the Global South, such that there are those who
have emerged as beneficiaries of the long-500 years, and those who have borne a disproportionate
burden of the cost in the form of human tragedy, environmental degradation, and economic
underdevelopment (Singh, this report). In this perspective, anthropogenic climate change can itself
be understood as a form of dark heritage, visited by overdeveloped nations, local elites, and others
who have benefitted from the carbon-fueled civilisation of the long-500 years, on the rest of humanity,
as well as on other beings, future unborn generations, and the earth itself.
With some important exceptions, the lack of socially and historically contextualised accounts of
anthropogenic climate change is one of the biggest gaps in the current debate. This is signaled in the
very concept of the Anthropocene, which effects a radical flattening of human history, by subsuming
humanity within the undifferentiated mass of the anthropos. A heritage perspective allows us to think
anthropogenic climate change through histories of modernity, colonialism, patriarchy, and much
elsewhich in turn allows us to understand how we are differently situated, implicated and
accountable for the climate emergency (Singh, this report).
6.6 Foregrounding a climate justice perspective
One of the cruelest aspects of anthropogenic climate change is that, in many cases, populations and
territories who bore a disproportionate burden of the costs of the long-500 years, now find
themselves most at risk from global heating. In this perspective, the historical injustices of racism,
sexism, coloniality, heteronormativity and speciesism are woven into the fabric of anthropogenic
climate change as a phenomenon. Understanding this, it becomes important that any solutions
should foreground a climate justice perspective (Siders, this report; Singh, this report). The debate
around climate justice is well advanced. For current purposes, it is understood to mean at least two
things. First, that proposed solutions should be based on human rights and social justice for the mass
of humanity. Second, that anthropogenic climate change needs to be understood as a phenomenon
that has differentially implicated populations and territories, such that we hold different
accountabilities and responsibilities when it comes to both finding, and bearing the cost of, solutions.
It is not that now is the moment when we should wipe the slate clean, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder
to face the new challenge. Rather, it is the case that our only chance of standing shoulder-to-shoulder,
is to work through the histories that have brought us to this point (Singh, this report).
Naming and entering a new epoch like the Anthropocene, there is the danger that this comes to be
regarded as a break in the timeline of history, such that we enter a new world characterised by new
rules. In fact, just the opposite appears to be the case. Arguably, the last few decades have witnessed
not a break, but an acceleration and intensification of many of the forces and dynamics that created
the modern/colonial worldincluding the forces that have created global social and economic
6.7 Imagining viable futures
In order to work towards viable futures, we need, first, to imagine them into being. Arguably, we stand
at a precarious point in human history where, for many, the grand narratives of the twentieth century
nationalism, modernisation, communism, capitalismhave been called into question, but have yet to
be replaced by compelling alternatives. For commentators like Amitav Ghosh (2016), the climate
crisis presents itself, among other things, as a crisis of culture. Nothing in our culture prepares us for
the sudden disruption of timelines and expectations. High cultural forms like the novel are premised
on the expectation of continuity and progress. As a plot device, catastrophism is reserved for
devalued genres: science fiction, horror, and tales of apocalypse.
This suggests a potent role for the arts and for creative practitioners. We need to evolve narratives,
frameworks and images that enable us to imagine viable futures in the context of anthropogenic
climate change (Riede at al., this report; Siders, this report). The power of arts-based approaches lies
in producing work that appeals on an intellectual, emotional and affective level, and that produces
resonance, believability and hope (Siders, this report). Future generations will look to our generation
to ask not only, What did you do about climate change?, but also, Where is the cultural transcript on
climate change?, How were you processing, and making sense of, this imminent civilisational
threat?. Hope is an unusual word to find in an academic setting, as is love (Ernsten, this report).
Arguably, in seeking solutions we need to set in play a new vocabulary of dreams, aspirations, hopes,
and fears. Far from being abstract or empty concepts, these are drivers of human behaviour, and will
determine our ability to adapt and change (Siders, this report).
6.8 Heritage as a resource for resilience and adaptation
The broader climate debate has been characterised by a tendency to fall back on culturalist
understandings and frameworks (that is, the understanding that people identify and respond on the
basis of cultural differences). It has also been characterised by a general understanding of heritage as
a fixed and inherently conservative category. This has resulted in two sets of arguments in relation to
heritage. The first is that heritage acts as a potential barrier to change and adaptation, manifesting as
a kind of cultural drag. The second, more positive, argument is that heritage might act as a source of
resilienceas in, a fixed point that people can hold onto in times of rapid social change.
Arguably, both of these understandings are misleading. A near consensus view within the field of
heritage studies is that rather than being a fixed and backward-looking phenomenon, heritage is
mobile as a category and always in-the-making (Siders, this report). In this, it resembles categories like
culture and tradition, themselves understood to be mobile and subject to constant renewal and
revision. Equally, there are strong arguments to suggest that people identify and respond on the
basis of a complex combination of factorsincluding gender, race, class, caste, religion, level of
education, and many other factorsrather than simply on the basis of cultural differences (Singh, this
report). Revising our understanding of culture and heritage accordingly has a number of implications.
First, it suggests that the debate on heritage and climate change might pivot, from heritage as a
source of resilience, to heritage as a source of adaptation (Siders, this report; Troi and Haas, this
report). We might ask what new forms of heritage are currently in emergence, and what forms of
heritage do we need to evolve of and for the Anthropocene. Second, we need to evolve
methodologies able to account for the complexity of motivations and responses to climate change
in particular, local settings (Ernsten, this report; Singh, this report).
6.9 Decolonising heritage and climate change research
One of the interesting features of the last ten years has been the re-emergence of the colonialas a
critical term in both public/political and scholarly circlesfifty years and more after formal, political
decolonisation in many parts of the world. In the academy, this has been evidenced in the many
workshops, conferences and new publications, aimed at decolonising disciplines and institutions.
Decolonising heritage and climate change research arguably has two dimensions, a structural
dimension and an epistemic dimension. In many disciplines, flows of resources, centers of authority,
and forms of organisation tend to recapitulate the structures of the colonial worlds in which those
disciplines came into being. Simpson et al. (in press) and Singh (this report) report prevailing
disparities in research across a Global North/South axis in heritage and climate change research.
Singh writes: Climate change research replicates existing unequal and often extractive knowledge
hierarchies based on geography, gender, race and ethnicity, language, and funding. Addressing
such disparities addresses the structural dimension of decolonisation.
Addressing the epistemic dimension of coloniality requires that we ask questions about knowledge
itself: what counts as knowledge, who gets to speak under the heading of knowledge, and how has
this situation come into being historically. In recent decades, a number of academic and scientific
organizations have recognised the importance of including local and Indigenous knowledge
perspectives. However, this inclusion typically comes with a catch. While disciplinary scientists are
understood to speak from a position of knowledge, their local and Indigenous interlocutors are
typically understood to speak from a more provisional position: knowledge as it exists in local settings,
or knowledge tempered by culture and tradition. The conventional distinction between science on
the one hand, and local and Indigenous knowledge on the other, has a number of effects. First it
implies that local and Indigenous knowledges are not scientific. Second, it implies that science is none
of these things, but is global, modern, and not linked to culture and identityagainst the weight of
decades of research in science and technology studies. In a further aspect of the subalternisation of
knowledge and practice, researchers in the Global South report having to apply models and
concepts developed in the Global North, with little regard for local conditions (Guevara, this report).
This involves having to adapt such models and concepts, and to engage in a process of reflexive
learning (Guevara, this report). In this epistemic dimension, decolonising heritage and climate
change research involves creating the conditions for open, non-hierarchical, and mutually respectful
engagements between scholars and practitioners across these different axes of difference: Global
North versus Global South, as well as science versus local and Indigenous knowledges (Carmen, this
report; Singh, this report; Sithole and Chundu, this report).
6.10 Working across the different modalities of heritage
It is both a strengthand a challengethat heritage operates across different, and at times
incompatible, modalities: a popular understanding of heritage; legal and institutional
understandings of heritage; and scholarly understandings of heritage. The strength of this situation
lies in the fact that each modality brings a set of capacities in addressing the challenges of
anthropogenic climate change. Popular usages of heritage create the potential for broad public buy-
in around solutions. Legal and institutional usages bring substantial already-existing logistical and
infrastructural capacities. Scholarly usages open the way to nuanced, empirically based
understandings based on current research. The challenge of this situation lies in the fact that these
different modalitiesespecially the second and third modalitiesare characterised by somewhat
different understandings and ways of working. The process of academic peer-review is very different
to the process of negotiating agreement between state parties. Equally, institutional technical
languages and definitions aimed at creating stable legal objects as a basis for management are very
different to scholarly definitions, which typically have the status of hypothesesor current best
guessesand which are subject to constant revision (see Appendix).
This WP has taken some pains with questions of definition, and with explicating the different
modalities of heritage. This is for the following reason: in the experience of the authors, discussions
between heritage scholars, managers, policy-makers and practitioners too often bog down in
disagreements around matters of definition, or in attempts by a single entity to insist on the primacy
of their definitions and technical language. In the search for solutions to anthropogenic climate
change, we cannot afford to go down this road. Rather, we need to recognise the inherent strength
of combining these different modalities of heritage. Doing so requires compromise and flexibility.
More especially, it involves a deep understanding that different modalities of heritage are at play, and
that each operates according to a different set of rules and understandings. Meeting on the basis of
mutual respect and compromise might allow for a formidable combination of criticality, logistical
capacity, and popular buy-in.
A good example of the value of global logistical reach is provided by our UNESCO correspondent,
who writes as follows about the management of World Heritage Sites:
Spread across different regions, climates and ecosystems, World Heritage sites serve as
global field observatories for climate change, where information on the impacts of climate
change can be gathered and disseminated. Furthermore, as the state of conservation of
World Heritage sites is regularly monitored and assessed, any adverse impact is
systematically reported to the World Heritage Committee which recommends appropriate
corrective action. World Heritage sites are, crucial places for gathering and disseminating
information regarding the impacts of climate change on our cultural and natural heritage.
The iconic character of World Heritage sites is an important asset for raising public concern
and enthusiasm and, therefore, building up support to take preventive and precautionary
measures for adapting to climate change and advocating on action more broadly.