STUDY: Climate Change Perceptions Vary Among Generations of Alaska’s Yup’ik and Cup’ik People

By Yessenia Funes Sep 21, 2016

Indigenous Yup’ik and Cup’ik communities in Alaska’s Lower Yukon River Basin and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta regions have varying perceptions of climate change—based on which age group you ask.

A U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Ecology and Society yesterday (September 20) found that while all ages said they observed environmental changes throughout their lifetime, elders (those 65 or older) are more aware of them. Researchers interviewed 51 participants over three and a half weeks in February 2014 and divided them into age-based groups: 18-29, 30-49, 50-64 and 65+.

Eighteen to 29-year-olds, who have experienced an unstable climate for most of their lives, found “fluctuating weather patterns” normal. But elders remembered climate and weather patterns before “this warming trend began,” as the study explained it.

Per the study:

Variable weather patterns are considered typical for those interview participants belonging to cohort 1 [18-29] more so than for those belonging to other age cohorts. This is not to say that the young adults interviewed do not recognize weather extremes … but that they are more accustomed to variability in seasonal weather.

The study goes on to explain that the more normalized this weather variability becomes, the less likely a person is to associate risk with it. The research aims to build an understanding of how indigenous communities observe and perceive climate change, in order to help them develop adaptation strategies to reduce their vulnerability to climate change impacts. The United Nations has made it clear that “indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change.”

Explore the complete study on Alaskan Indigenous people here.