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Climate change perceptions, realities, and adaptations in the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary Landscape, India

Authors: Rutherford Platt*, Gettysburg College, Monica Ogra*, Gettysburg College
Topics: Development, Applied Geography, Remote Sensing
Keywords: India, Himalayas, climate change, local perceptions, adaptation, remote sensing
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Himalayan communities that primarily depend on rain-fed agriculture are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change. To initiate appropriate adaptation strategies, communities must have sufficient resources and accurately perceive the changes that are occurring. In this study, we compare perceptions of climate change for the last 20 years (from a survey of 251 households across 16 villages) to climate data obtained from NASA's Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS 2.1) and MODIS Terra Snow Cover data product datasets. We found that a large majority of respondents perceive that rainfall is increasing and that snowfall is decreasing, while a smaller majority perceives an increase in summer temperatures and no change in winter temperatures. Agreeing with the perceptions of the majority, the climate data show an increase in summer temperature and winter rainfall. However, the climate data also show an increase in winter temperature, and no change in snowfall, findings which are contrary to the perception of the majority. We did not find a correlation between perceptions of climate change and adaptation to climate change, either current or planned. Although residents had ideas for adaptation strategies, many feel unable to implement them without external support structures. A common adaptation strategy for some involved changing traditional cropping patterns, while risk aversion may inhibit the adoption of new agricultural strategies for others. We propose that communities be involved in identifying the most useful climate data products, and that trained individuals in the government or NGO sector freely disseminate data and provide technical assistance.

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