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GSSC Seminar Series
29 November 2022


Listening to Local Voices on Building Community Resilience in Facing Climatic Uncertainties: Some perspectives from the Northern Region, Malaysia

Dr. Sharina Abdul Halim (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia)



Uncertainties may emanate from different sources such as incomplete knowledge systems, structural uncertainty within a model, environmental hazards or changes in the wider political economy. While scientists tend to focus on ‘accumulated uncertainties’ as outcomes and robustness of models, decision makers seek to balance these outcomes against their priorities, portfolios and political interests. On the other hand, uncertainty is part and parcel of life for people living at the interface of climate change.  Their livelihood and adaptation strategies  are diverse, context specific and draw on local knowledge systems and may differ from the dominant prescriptions made by some bureaucratic and scientific actors. Thus, examining the concept of uncertainty in relation to climate change from various vantage points is crucial. In this presentation, I would argue on the need to understand uncertainty by how local people live and cope with uncertainty in everyday settings. Drawings exploratory findings from the Northern Region of Malaysia, namely in Langkawi Island and Baling, both in the state of Kedah. The Kedah State has suffered from an extremely serious water deficiency for decades. Aside from the physical dimension of climate change, unlimited industrial enlargement, extensive agricultural irrigation, and the continuing improvement of living standards constitute the main factors in the human dimension that influence the changing balance between water supply and demand. Findings revealed local communities are already experiencing the impacts of climatic uncertainties, with each of the areas being affected differently. There are significant deficiencies in climate preparedness that is compounded by development activities. Through local voices, they emphasized that both top-down and bottom-up approaches are required for adaptation. The potential to enhance co-production of both scientific and experiential knowledge at the local level was highlighted. Considering the multiple dynamic ways of how climatic uncertainties interact with socio-economic levels, building community resilience requires more than just being responsive but also moving toward proactive actions that creates opportunities for alternative ways of thinking and acting. Whilst structural top-down approach matters, harmonising it with listening to local voices that emphasised on different factors, resources and capacities would enable more systemic and participatory approaches to addressing climate uncertainties challenges.


Dr. Sharina Abdul Halim, an environmental sociologist, appointed as Associate Professor at the Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Currently, she holds the position of Deputy Director at the Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI) starting from 2022 to 2025. Her research interests include islands and indigenous community development, sustainable livelihoods, tourism development, and heritage conservation. She is also research group leader for the Governance for Heritage Conservation (GAMAT) since 2019. She was part of the Editorial Board for Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures (2015-2021). Actively involved as a member of the National Geopark Implementation Committee (Malaysia) and a member of the Scientific and Technical Team for the Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark since 2007. She is assigned as one of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Lead Authors for Chapter 5 on the Special 1.5 degrees Report (2017-2018) and Chapter 10: Asia for the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6-WG2) (2019-2022).