Climate Change, Knowledge and Learning

For many years, researchers have explored local knowledge about environmental change and increasingly over the past decade, local knowledge in relation to climate change specifically.

Community Radio Broadcasters discuss the impacts of coastal erosion near Ada, Ghana. 
Credit: Blane Harvey/IDS.

We now know much more about the content of the different types of knowledge that are important for responding to climate change – from climate scientists modelling future rainfall changes in a particular country to local farmers' detailed understanding of how to get the most out of their environment in highly variable conditions.

However, we still do not know very much about how these different forms of knowledge are used in practice by national policy-makers, front-line staff (such as agricultural extension officers or health workers), and people in poor communities on the ground. We also have a poor grasp of how and when it is best to bring together people from very different starting points, to reconcile what they know. Bringing different perspectives together is important for both the quality and legitimacy of decisions about adaptation.

IDS researchers and colleagues are seeking answers to questions such as:

  • What are the factors most likely to help people agree on what forms of knowledge are useful (sometimes referred to as 'knowledge co-production') for strengthening adaptive capacity?
  • How do different types of knowledge about climate change become sufficiently credible to be considered worthy of transfer or exchange?
  • How does knowledge actually get transmitted (for example across generations and between different contexts)?
  • How can we best ensure that all types of knowledge about climate change are reaching the people they need to, in the forms that they can best understand and use?

Climate Airwaves

Climate Airwaves aims to support community radio broadcasters to transmit climate research to local communities in an easy-to-understand format. It also promotes sharing between different communities, local policymakers and researchers dealing with a changing climate. More details

Knowledge Navigator - your key to online Climate Change platforms

The Knowledge Navigator project has developed a web-based interactive tool, called a widget, to guide users through to appropriate climate change websites. It is a joint project between IDS Knowledge Services and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) More details

Learning Hub

A place for DFID staff to connect with and learn from fellow country office staff, DFID specialist advisers and technical experts as a basis for creating applied knowledge for dealing with the complexities of climate change in the development arena. More details

Shubh Kal

This project will build the capacity of local radio to broadcast and to advocate on climate issues at community level in an accessible way while at the same time providing a platform for communities to share their experiences of adaptation to climate change. More details

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IDS publications on international development research

Understanding Needs, Meeting Demands: User-oriented analysis of on-line knowledge broker platforms for climate change and development

As more stakeholders take steps toward operationalizing climate compatible development (CCD), the demand for information and knowledge related to the concept is growing. More details

Non-IDS publication

Knowledge Exchange: A Review and Research Agenda

Environmental Conservation 40.01 (2013)

This paper elicits the expert knowledge of academics involved in research and practice of KE from different disciplines and backgrounds to review research themes, identify gaps and questions, and develop a research agenda for furthering understanding about KE. More details

Non-IDS publication

Climate Change Communication and Social Learning - Review and Strategy Development for CCAFS

This working paper offers an overview of current theory and practice on climate change communication and social learning in the global South with a view of informing CCAFS strategy in this area. More details

The Learning Hub recognised that a rich body of knowledge is continuously being generated by DFID frontline staff through an organic ‘learning-by-doing’ process. The programme was designed to join up this knowledge, internally – between country staff and headquarters staff – and externally with cutting-edge knowledge from thematic experts.

Learning to Tackle Climate Change

How can continuous reflection and learning help tackle climate change in the context of wider development challenges? This interactive PDF aims to support ongoing learning by those inside and outside DFID to develop their own learning journey - no matter what their country, context or level of personal expertise. It reflects the combined knowledge of DFID staff and external experts generated over two years on a shared learning journey through the Learning Hub programme. More details

Non-IDS publication

Climate Airwaves: Community Radio, Action Research and Advocacy for Climate Justice in Ghana

International Journal of Communication 5 (2011)

Community radio is well recognized as a powerful vehicle for advocacy and social change in Africa, but its use in the field of climate change has remained very limited, and then largely for top-down transmission of information to communities. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Farmers' Knowledge and Climate Change Adaptation: Insights from Policy Processes in Kenya and Namibia

This briefing paper reports on lessons from recent studies in two areas: first on seasonal forecasting and indigenous knowledge in Kenya, and second, agro-ecological knowledge and science in Namibia. More details

Book cover of Political Economy of Climate Change. IDS Bulletin 42.3.

Meteorologists Meeting Rainmakers: Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Policy Processes in Kenya

IDS Bulletin 42.3 (2011)

This article seeks to shed light on policy processes arising from interaction between indigenous rainmakers and meteorologists, in participatory action research aimed at increasing the capacity of a local community to adapt to climate change. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Knowing, Farming and Climate Change Adaptation in North-Central Namibia

Global Environmental Change 21 (2011)

The agro-ecological knowledge held by Ovambo farmers in North Central Namibia has, for centuries, given them resilience to high levels of climate variability and associated impacts. More details

Harnessing Synergies: Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation in Disaster Risk Reduction Programmes and Policies

A new report from IDS and ActionAid provides practical tips, advice and guidance for those working in the Disaster Risk Reduction sector. More details