Assembling climate knowledge. The role of local expertise

  • Jøran Solli
  • Marianne Ryghaug


The difference between indigenous knowledge and western science continues to be a central theme in the social studies of science. This paper investigates the use of climate knowledge in climate adaptation activities. The analysis is based on a case study of indigenous experts involved in practical operations dealing with risk of avalanches in an area particularly vulnerable to avalanches in northern Norway. We find that indigenous knowledge held by local area experts and western science overlap. From this we develop two lines of argument. Firstly that assemblages of climate adaptation is produced as collaborative guesswork related to coupling and negotiation of different types of knowledge in a decision context. Secondly, we discuss what such a practice means for the understanding of the relationship between climate knowledge and climate policy. By following different assemblages of climate knowledge we point to an alternative way of understanding a process of policy shaping in relation to climate adaptation: a sideways policy shaping process where what gets included or excluded and what is considered internal or external to a decision making context becomes evident.



Adger et al. 2009. Are there social limits to adaptation to climate change? Climatic Change 93:335–354.

Dessai S, Hulme M, Lempert RJ, Pielke R Jr. 2009. Climate prediction: a limit to adaptation? In Adger WN, Lorenzoni I, O`Brien K, (eds) Adapting to climate change: thresholds, values, governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Giddens, A. 2009. The Politics of Climate Change. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hanssen-Bauer I, Drange H, Førland E J, Roald L A, Børsheim K Y, Hisdal H, Lawrence D, Nesje A, Sandven S, Sorteberg A, Sundby S, Vasskog K og Ådlandsvik B. 2009. Klima i Norge 2100. Bakgrunnsmateriale til NOU Klimatilplassing, Norsk klimasenter, Oslo.

Haugen J E and Iversen T. 2008. Response in extremes of daily precipitation and wind from a downscaled multimodel ensemble of anthropogenic global climate change scenarios. Tellus, 60A.

Hulme M. 2009. Why we disagree about climate change. London: Cambridge.

Jasanoff S and M L Martello (eds.) 2004. Earthly Politics: Local and Global in Environmental Governance. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Latour B. 2005. Reassembling the Social. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lave J, Wenger E. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Law J. 2004. After Method. Mess in Social Science Research. London: Routledge.

Leith, P. 2011. Public Engagement with Climate Adaptation: An Imperative for (and Driver of) Institutional Reform? In L Whitarsh, S O´Neill and I Lorenzoni (eds) Engaging the public with climate change. London: Earthscan.

McNie E. 2007. Reconciling the supply of scientific information with user demands: an analysis of the problem and review of the literature. Environmental Science & Policy 10: 17-38.

Miller C and Edwards P (eds.) 2001. Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Moser S. 2007. In the Long Shadows of Inaction: The Quiet Building of a Climate Protection Movement in the United States. Global Environmental Politics 7: 2, May 2007.

Nelson, D., Agder W and Brown K. 2007. Adaptation to environmental change: Contribution of a resilience framework, Annual Review of Environment and Resources 32: 395-419.

Næss R, Solli J and Sørensen K H. 2011. Brukbar klimakunnskap? Kommunalt ansattes forhold til forskning og annen kunnskap om klimaendringer og klimatilpasning. Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning 52 (3): 329-354.

Næss R and Solli J. 2013. Klimakunnskap og kunnskapsklima. Hvordan drives klimatilpasning? Trondheim: Akademika Forlag.

Philip, K. S. 2001. Indigenous knowledge: science and technology studies. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences. Chicago: Elsevier. 7292-7297.

Pielke R A Jr. and Sarewitz D. 2005. Bringing Society Back into the Climate Debate. Population and Environment, 26(3).

Purcell, T W. 1988. Indigenous knowledge and applied Anthropology, Questions of defintions and Direction. Human Organization 57 (3): 258-272.

Reg Clim 2005. Reg Clim: Norges klima om 100 år: Usikkerheter og risiko. Oslo, Norway. Available at

Richards P. L, Slikkerveer J, Phillips A. O. 1989. Indigenous Knowledge Systems for Agriculture and Rural Development: The CIKARD Inaugural Lectures. Studies in Technology and Social Change, 13

Ryghaug, M. and Sørensen, K.H. 2008. Klima for tverrfaglig kommunikasjon? Om klimaforskningens dialogstrategier. In K. H. Sørensen, H. J. Gansmo, V. A. Lagesen & E. Amdahl (eds.), Vitenskap som dialog – kunnskap i bevegelse. Tverrfaglighet og kunnskapskulturer i forskning: 161–182. Trondheim: Tapir Akademisk Forlag.

Ryghaug M and Skjølsvold T. 2010. The Global Warming of Climate Science: Climategate and the Construction of Scientific Facts. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 2010 24 (3): 287-307.

Ryghaug M and Solli J. 2012. The appropriation of the climate change problem among road managers: fighting in the trenches of the real world. Climatic Change 114 (3-4): 427-440.

Sarewitz, D. and Pielke, RA Jr. 2007. The neglected heart of science policy: reconciling supply of and demand for science. Environmental Science & Policy 10: 5-16.

Schön, D.A. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner – How professionals think in action. London: Ashgate.

Strauss, A.J. and Corbin J.M. 1990. Basics of Qualitative Research. Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sørensen K H, Aune M, Hatling M. 2000. Against Linearity: on the cultural Appropriation of Science and Technology. In M Dierkes, C Von Groete (eds.) Between Understanding and Trust. Amsterdam: Harwood academic publishers: 237-257.

Sørensen K H and R Williams. 2002. Shaping Technology, Guiding Policy: Concepts, spaces & Tools. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Tribbia J & Moser S. 2008. More than information: what coastal managers need to plan for climate change. Environmental Science & Policy 11, 315-328.

Tøsse S. E. 2012. Uncertainties and insufficiencies: making sense of climate adaptation. Doctoral thesis. NTNU.

Tøsse S. E. 2013. Concern and confidence. Architects making sense of climate adaptation. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 40.

Vogel C, S Moser, R. Kasperson, G Dabelko. 2007. Linking Vulnerability, adaptation and resilience science to practice: Pathways, players and partnerships. Global Environmental Change 17:349-364.

Watson-Verran H and Turnbull D. 1995. Science and Other Indigenous Knowledge Systems, in S Jasanoff et al. (eds.) Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Wynne, B. 2007. Indigenous Knowledge and Modern Science as Ways of Knowing and Living Nature: The Contexts and Limits of Biosafety Risk Assessment in Traavik, T. and Lim, L.C. (eds.) Biosafety First. Tapir Academic Publishers
Peer-Reviewed Articles