In the journal Biology Letters. This would seem to indicate that there is a role for anecdotal evidence if it is collected systematically and correlated with scientific data.


Local perceptions of climate change validated by scientific evidence in the Himalayas

  1. Pashupati Chaudhary1 and 
  2. Kamaljit S. Bawa1,2,3,*

+Author Affiliations

  1. 1Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA 02125, USA
  2. 2Sustainability Science Program, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  3. 3Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore 560024, India
  1. *Author for correspondence ([log in to unmask]).


The Himalayas are assumed to be undergoing rapid climate change, with serious environmental, social and economic consequences for more than two billion people. However, data on the extent of climate change or its impact on the region are meagre. Based on local knowledge, we report perceived changes in climate and consequences of such changes for biodiversity and agriculture. Our analyses are based on 250 household interviews administered in 18 villages, and focused group discussions conducted in 10 additional villages in Darjeeling Hills, West Bengal, India and Ilam district of Nepal. There is a widespread feeling that weather is getting warmer, the water sources are drying up, the onset of summer and monsoon has advanced during last 10 years and there is less snow on mountains than before. Local perceptions of the impact of climate change on biodiversity included early budburst and flowering, new agricultural pests and weeds and appearance of mosquitoes. People at high altitudes appear more sensitive to climate change than those at low altitudes. Most local perceptions conform to scientific data. Local knowledge can be rapidly and efficiently gathered using systematic tools. Such knowledge can allow scientists to test specific hypotheses, and policy makers to design mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change, especially in an extraordinarily important part of our world that is experiencing considerable change.

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

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