10 Economic and administrative consequences
Climate change is one of the greatest threats humanity is facing in the present century. Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns and sea level rise are examples of factors that will have increasing impacts on natural and human systems. These changes will become gradually more marked as the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases rises, and greenhouse gas emissions will have increasingly serious impacts. Climate change may have significant adverse impacts on nature and on human life and health. The impacts in countries that are more vulnerable than Norway may also influence international politics and trade. This white paper is based on the impacts climate change is expected to have in Norway. No assessment has been made of possible indirect impacts on Norway of the effects of climate change in other countries and regions.
Climate change may have serious adverse impacts on natural and human systems. Changes in precipitation patterns in recent decades have resulted in increasing damage to buildings and roads. In 2011, insurance companies paid out more than NOK 2 billion in compensation for damage caused by water entering buildings. However, the increase in damage costs partly reflects the increase in the value of buildings and contents with the rising incomes and greater prosperity in Norway.
Society’s vulnerability is partly related to important infrastructure such as roads, water supply systems and buildings. Climate change will increase the need for maintenance and upgrading of key infrastructure in Norway. The climate is already changing, and inadequate maintenance of roads and water supply and sewerage systems means that parts of Norwegian society are not well adapted to today’s climate.
The combined measures and policy instruments proposed in this white paper constitute an active, coordinated approach to making Norway more resilient to climate change. A key purpose of climate change adaptation is to avoid future costs, for example related to accidents, disruption of operations and other damage caused by climate change. Measures such as flood, landslide and avalanche protection, and upgrading of water supply, sewerage and drainage systems are costly. However, unless the sewerage and drainage systems that are being replaced in Norwegian municipalities today are designed for a changing climate, they may not have sufficient capacity to deal with future precipitation levels. This could reduce their lifetime and entail far greater costs for society. Preventing negative impacts of climate change through adaptation can reduce future costs. The cost-effectiveness of adaptation measures must be evaluated on a case-to-case basis.
For a more detailed review of the costs and impacts of climate change in Norway, the reader is referred to the report Adapting to a changing climate (NOU 2010: 10).
The municipal, county and central government authorities are responsible for taking into account climatic conditions, including climate change, in relevant areas of their activities. This is not a new responsibility, but the present white paper highlights the authorities’ responsibility for taking climate change into account and describes its substance more specifically. The measures proposed here, such as the development of a national centre for climate services, will facilitate adaptation in municipal planning processes.
It is presumed that in many cases, the reduction in future damage costs will compensate for the additional costs involved in incorporating climate change considerations into planning processes. The development of climate services and improvement of the knowledge base, expertise, map data and other practical tools for municipal adaptation work will make it possible for the municipalities and others to fulfil their responsibilities without substantial economic and administrative consequences.