Epistemic injustice in Climate Adaptation

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 25 (4):613-634 (2022)
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Indigenous peoples are disproportionally vulnerable to climate change. At the same time, they possess valuable knowledge for fair and sustainable climate adaptation planning and policymaking. Yet Indigenous peoples and knowledges are often excluded from or underrepresented within adaptation plans and policies. In this paper we ask whether the concept of epistemic injustice can be applied to the context of climate adaptation and the underrepresentation of Indigenous knowledges within adaptation policies and strategies. In recent years, the concept of epistemic injustice has gained prominence, indicating that someone has been unfairly discriminated against in their capacity as a knower. We argue that many climate adaptation policies are epistemically unjust towards Indigenous peoples because of the underrepresentation of Indigenous knowledges by showing how the case of Indigenous knowledges in climate adaptation planning and policy satisfies five conditions of epistemic injustice. We further consider what challenges there are to integrating local and Indigenous knowledges within development in general, and climate adaptation strategies in particular and how these can be addressed. Whether the lack of Indigenous knowledges in climate adaptation policies constitutes an epistemic injustice matters because an injustice denotes an unfair advantage to one group – whether by design or default – that ought to be remedied and redressed.



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