Focus area at the Research Council:
Research on living with climate change
As the climate changes, individuals and society at large must learn to adapt. The Research Council of Norway is stepping up the level of activity in climate research as part of the effort to better cope with coming climate change, both nationally and globally.
Developing adaptive responses to climate change is critical, but is a young and relatively undeveloped field of study. The need for research is vast.
“In order to determine how we can best adapt to climate change, we must first learn something about its impacts. And before we can fully understand these, we need to know as much as possible about the climate system itself and how it is changing,” says Gørill Kristiansen, Special Adviser for the Research Council’s programme on Climate Change and its Impacts in Norway (NORKLIMA).
Broad array of issues
Norwegian researchers are addressing a broad array of issues relating to climate change and mitigation needs, from society’s vulnerability to floods and extreme weather to securing and redesigning road and rail networks. General building requirements need to be adjusted, for instance by designing buildings to withstand higher levels of moisture.
In the industrial sector, one of the relevant research questions is what the fisheries industry will have to do to adapt to changes in the resource base and how this may affect settlement patterns along the Norwegian coast. The types of agricultural species that will be best suited to an altered climate is another important topic. And researchers are currently poring over the statutory framework to clarify who is responsible for what.
Taste of climate change to come
“his summer Norway got a taste of the negative impacts of climate change. Massive amounts of precipitation wreaked havoc with roads and rail tracks, and several communities suffered severe damage from floods and landslides.”
“Successfully adapting to more extreme weather will require a tremendous willingness to change on the part of the individual municipalities and counties and the state. One of the government’s key responsibilities will be to establish effective climate change adaptation guidelines,” says Director General of the Research Council, Arvid Hallén.
In order to obtain the know-how needed, the Research Council recommended a hefty increase in funding for climate research in the 2012 national budget. The Council’s proposal, however, was not incorporated into the budget.
The Research Council had proposed a substantial boost in funding for climate research in previous years as well, but this did not result in the necessary increase in allocations either.
“Climate research is a responsibility shared by many sectors of society, and we need wide-ranging research on climate change adaptation. Although many adaptations will be first and foremost relevant for Norwegian conditions, we must not forget our global responsibility,” emphasises Mr Hallén.
“Norway is home to one of the world’s leading climate research communities. Participation in the International Polar Year (IPY) greatly enhanced the strength and capacity of Norwegian climate research, and there are now even more research groups at the international forefront. But the country will have a difficult time maintaining its position without major growth in funding for climate research in the years to come.”
Time to act
According to Mr Hallén, the large number of stakeholders in climate research and climate change adaptation – not least the various ministries – may actually make it harder to achieve climate research activities of sufficient scale and integration.
“If we wait too long to implement large-scale efforts in this vital priority area, the country’s research capacity will diminish quickly. A delay of even a few years will entail rebuilding the climate research community. Norway must increase funding for climate research now,” he warns, “as doing it later will be unnecessarily costly and inefficient.”
Must follow up recommendations
“The climate research community and the Research Council have had clear expectations that there would be a major boost in funding as recommended in the Klima21 report from 2010. The government appointed the Klima21 forum in the wake of the broad-based political agreement on climate policy achieved in the Storting in 2008, in which all the political parties, with the exception of the Progress Party, committed to a plan to further develop climate research. In its report the Klima21 forum proposed an increase in allocations to climate research of NOK 1 billion in the period from 2010 to 2015,” stresses Mr Hallén.
The Research Council’s budget proposal for 2013 recommends an increase of NOK 90 million for activities relating to climate change and sectoral challenges. “This is the fifth year in a row that we have proposed a leap in funding for climate research. We can’t give up. There is a genuine and urgent need for research in this area. This time we think our proposal will go through,” says Mr Hallén hopefully.
|Stavanger: a pioneering municipality|
Located on the southwestern coast of Norway, Stavanger is one of eight municipalities that have been participating in the project “Community Adaptation and Vulnerability in Norway” (NORADAPT) since 2007. The project focuses on climate change adaptation, and has received funding under the Research Council’s NORKLIMA programme.
Its participation in the NORADAPT project has led Stavanger to raise the minimum permitted building height from 2.34 metres to 3 metres above sea level. The project has also led to the development of simulation tools for sea level rise in the coastal zone, which take into account wind and wave currents, wave height, and wave and storm tides, for use in municipal planning.
“We are currently performing a general vulnerability assessment for Stavanger and are considering implementing several additional adaptation measures,” says Hugo Kind, who is coordinating the municipality’s mitigation efforts. In his view, the city is much better equipped to cope with climate change than it used to be, even though much work remains to be done.
“The tools Stavanger has developed should be used by other municipalities as well,” advises Mr Kind, who would also like to see more development and clearer guidelines for climate change adaptation at the national level.
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