Date of Award

Summer 7-23-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Geography

First Advisor

William R. Travis

Second Advisor

Mara J. Goldman

Third Advisor

Patricia N. Limerick

Abstract

Climate perception and local climate knowledges are an important area of scholarship within social dimensions of climate change as they influence how people respond to and make decisions about change. Climate perception research has largely focused on beliefs about and attitudes towards climate change. Such research fails to ask the preceding question of how people understand climate, not just climate change. This research investigates perception and knowledge of climate and asks three questions: 1) What is the political ecology of climate knowledges in the Gunnison landscape, and how is it influenced by the production and circulation of knowledges? 2) What is the structure and content of experienced climate knowledge? 3) How can the understanding of experienced climate knowledges inform us of stakeholder climate information needs? The Gunnison Basin in western Colorado provided case study for this research with 28 semi-structured interviews and observations made over two months of fieldwork. Findings revealed that climate knowledges are political and that the mode of production, producers, and context shape climate knowledges. Experienced knowledges bound climate differently than knowledges from climate models; climate is a socio-ecological-atmospheric process marked by human processes, and interaction between all three types of processes. Ingestion of new climate information –and whether it’s deemed useful and credible- is equally complex; it is a product of how people understand their climate. An understanding of climate knowledges is critical to scholarship on the social dimensions of climate change, and this research can offer a new lens for future research and provide new insights into past research. It can allow researchers to better interpret attitudes, beliefs, and decisions about climate change, to ascertain why past efforts of climate mitigation and adaptation were unsuccessful, and gain insight into applications for climate information.

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