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Meld. St. 33 (2012–2013)

Climate change adaptation in Norway — Meld. St. 33 (2012–2013) Report to the Storting (white paper)

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3 Impacts of climate change on nature and society

Climate change will affect everyone, but the severity of its impacts will vary from one part of the world to another. There will be wide geographical variations within Norway as well. In addition, the impacts of climate change will vary between sectors. Much of Norway’s infrastructure is vulnerable to wind and weather. All biomass-based products (food, fodder, fuel, chemicals and so on) are derived from the natural environment, which also provides many other essential ecosystem services.

Many infrastructure assets, such as roads, railways, ports and breakwaters, the electricity grid and buildings, have long operational lifetimes. The average lifetime of buildings in Norway is 78 years. Many of the buildings being constructed now will therefore still be standing towards the end of this century, and will need to be resilient to changes such as an increase in the intensity of precipitation. The adaptive capacity of human societies depends strongly on how they are organised, the resources, tools and data at their disposal, and the available knowledge on climate change. The adaptive capacity of society is also important for understanding the impacts of climate change, and for identifying strategies and specific solutions that can be used to increase climate resilience.

In recent years there has been a great deal of research on the effects and impacts of global warming. We have learnt more about the possible impacts of climate change on different elements of the natural environment and sectors of society. Most analyses are based on the assumption that global mean temperature will rise by 2–3 °C. We know less about what is likely to happen if the global mean temperature rises by as much as 4–6 °C. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, there is considerable uncertainty about the effects and impacts of such a dramatic degree of warming. The more we allow atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to rise, the more serious the impacts will be. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that if the two-degree target is not met, there is a risk of mass species extinctions and a loss of ecosystems throughout the world, flooding in densely populated coastal areas, prolonged drought in larger and larger areas, and a decline in global food production.

As the temperature rises, climate change will become more and more marked during the present century. We can expect more frequent extreme weather events such as intense rainfall, flooding, and landslides and avalanches. At the same time, the impacts of climate change on society depend on many different factors that are constantly changing. Climate change adaptation is at an early stage, and our experience is limited. Our knowledge and understanding of climate change and its impacts on nature and society are steadily improving.

3.1 The natural environment

Climate change has major impacts on species and ecosystems. In addition, it acts together with many other pressures such as habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, harvesting, invasive alien species, traffic and other disturbance by humans. The overall result can be to put great pressure on the natural environment. If there are several significant environmental pressures acting in the same area at the same time, this increases the risk of negative impacts such as loss of biodiversity. Land use change is considered to be the greatest threat to biodiversity today, but climate change is expected to become a more and more important factor. In the marine environment, the pace of ocean acidification is expected to be particularly high in cold Arctic waters, which will alter living conditions for marine organisms.

The goods and services supplied by the natural environment are known as ecosystem services, and they can be divided into four categories:

  • Provisioning services: for example food, energy, fresh water, medicinal resources and raw materials for building;

  • Regulating services: for example water purification, air quality regulation, flood control and erosion prevention;

  • Cultural services: for example recreation and mental and physical health;

  • Supporting services: for example soil formation, nutrient cycling and primary production.

Healthy ecosystems can provide a first line of defence against the impacts of climate change: for example, floodplain wetlands can absorb water and thus moderate flooding.1 Ecosystem services are thus crucial for life on Earth and as a basis for health, welfare and value creation in any society. In addition, nature has an intrinsic value that we have an obligation to safeguard.

Figure 3.1 The violet copper (Lycaena helle) is red-listed in Norway, and is dependent on open semi-natural vegetation types found in traditional farmland.

Figure 3.1 The violet copper (Lycaena helle) is red-listed in Norway, and is dependent on open semi-natural vegetation types found in traditional farmland.

Photo: Ove Bergersen/Samfoto/NTBscanpix

Impacts of climate change on the natural environment

The climate in an area determines the type of natural environment that is found there, and species and ecosystems are adapted to specific climatic conditions such as temperature and rainfall patterns. Moreover, species and ecosystems are continually adapting to natural fluctuations in such variables. This is a slow process, and climate change is a problem because the changes are now happening so rapidly that many species do not have time to adapt to them. A milder climate in Norway may lead to changes such as earlier sexual maturity in animals, earlier flowering in plants, a longer growing season, the earlier arrival of migratory birds and shifts of spawning grounds in fish. This can disturb the balance of nature and ecological interactions. For example, migratory birds may arrive on their breeding grounds before there are sufficient numbers of the insects they depend on, or plants may flower before pollinating insects have become active. Climate change may also result in an upward and northward shift in vegetation zones, and other species associated with the different vegetation zones will also have to move to survive. Changes in land use may create barriers that prevent species from moving to new areas.

The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concluded that throughout the world, species are being lost at much higher rates than natural background rates.2 However, there is considerable uncertainty associated with the figures in the assessment. Climate change may reinforce these developments. According to the IPCC, between 20 and 30 % of the species that have been evaluated are at risk of disappearing if the global temperature rises by more than 2 °C during the present century. The loss of biodiversity is one of the main reasons for intensifying efforts to combat climate change. The estimates of biodiversity loss illustrate the importance of adaptation to such major processes of change, and in addition, of being able to make use of any benefits they bring.

Climate change is already happening, and will continue, driven by the greenhouse gases that have already accumulated in the atmosphere. The extent of climate change will be determined by further greenhouse gas emissions, but climate change will continue, together with ocean acidification and the melting of glaciers, even if we are able to limit the global temperature rise to no more than two degrees Celsius. Knowledge of these processes of change makes it possible to consider them in the context of other environmental pressures such as land-use change and habitat fragmentation, harvesting, the spread of alien species and pollution. By developing an integrated management regime, it is possible to minimise the losses and damage caused by climate change.

The introduction of invasive alien species is a major cause of biodiversity losses today. Some new species spread to Norway through natural processes, while others are introduced by human activity. These can displace naturally occurring species and cause irreversible changes in ecosystems.

Figure 3.2 Lupins – an alien species in Norway

Figure 3.2 Lupins – an alien species in Norway

Photo: Marianne Gjørv/Ministry of the Environment

A longer growing season and shorter and milder winters may provide more suitable conditions for alien species that are not yet present in Norway, and allow species that are already present to become established and spread further. For example, rising sea temperatures have already resulted in changes in marine biodiversity. The Pacific oyster, which is classified as a very high risk on Norway’s Black List of alien species, has already become established at a number of sites along the southern half of the Norwegian coastline. A rising volume of shipping in Arctic waters will also increase the risk of introducing alien species from the Pacific Ocean; one route of introduction is ballast water containing alien species. The report Alien species in Norway – with the Norwegian Black List 2012 includes ecological risk assessments of species that do not occur naturally in Norway. They include 134 species that are not yet established in Norway, but that are known to pose an ecological risk in nearby countries, and that may become established here if climate change makes conditions more suitable for them.

Climate change in different ecosystems

Rising temperatures, higher precipitation and more frequent and more severe extreme weather affect all ecosystems, from the highest mountains to deep-sea areas off the Norwegian coast. Marine and coastal ecosystems are also under pressure from ocean acidification and sea level rise.

Alpine ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to higher temperatures because the species found there have nowhere else to move to, and many of them are adapted to climatic extremes and low temperatures. In response to the changing climate, the treeline and vegetation zones are shifting upwards and the area of suitable habitat for alpine species is shrinking. This affects species such as the Arctic fox, wild reindeer and various alpine plants, which like species in Arctic ecosystems do not have alternative suitable habitats. Competition from new species will also be a threat – for example, the Arctic fox can be displaced and outcompeted by the red fox. These changes are taking place at the same time as infrastructure development and other human activities are putting increasing pressure on mountain. The wild reindeer, a species for which Norway has a special international responsibility, is dependent on large continuous areas of natural habitat in the mountains, and is particularly vulnerable to such changes.

Small rodents are key species in alpine ecosystems, and disruption of their population cycles as a result of changes in snow cover and the formation of ice crust may also affect threatened species such as the Arctic fox and snowy owl. Willow grouse and ptarmigan populations may also be affected because they are more important prey for predator species when numbers of small rodents are low.

Climate change in the Arctic is discussed further in Chapter 9.

Textbox 3.1 Wild reindeer need stable cold weather

Throughout the cold winter months, wild reindeer dig down through the snow to find lichens and evergreen plants. A rise in mean temperature increases the risk of repeated melting and freezing of the surface snow. This results in the formation of a hard crust of ice that makes it more difficult for the reindeer to reach food under the snow. If adult reindeer have poorer access to their food supplies through a long, cold winter, the calves born in spring will be smaller and lighter and therefore less likely to survive. This is only one of the climate-related threats to wild reindeer – others include changes in disease status and in the species composition of the vegetation on their grazing grounds.

Figure 3.3 A wild reindeer on winter grazing grounds in the Dovre mountain range

Figure 3.3 A wild reindeer on winter grazing grounds in the Dovre mountain range

Photo: Tore Wuttudal/Samfoto/NTBscanpix

Higher temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns are also causing glacier melt in Norway. Estimates indicate that the volume of the glaciers may drop by 30–40 % by 2100, and that only the largest glaciers will still exist by then. In addition to the loss of an important landscape element, this process will change flow patterns and temperature in glacial meltwater rivers, and thus alter living conditions for many freshwater species.

For forest ecosystems, the growing season is expected to become longer, which will result in faster growth, a rise in the proportion of trees that prefer a warmer climate and perhaps changes in the species composition of forests. Rising temperatures may also result in the northward and upward spread of forest. According to the IPCC, northerly forests will be particularly vulnerable to climate change in the long term, but also in the short term if climate change results in more damage by factors such as storms, pest outbreaks, drought and forest fires. Such factors can be serious threats to forest health, vitality and productivity. Research shows that forests where biodiversity is higher are better able to provide both provisioning and regulating services, including water purification and the maintenance of biodiversity.3,4

According to the 2010 Norwegian Red List, about half of all threatened or near-threatened species in Norway are associated with forests. However, there is nothing to suggest that the situation of Norway’s threatened and near-threatened species has deteriorated between 2006 (when the previous Red List was published) and 2010. For example, none of the woodpecker species in Norway are any longer on the Red List: in other words they are all considered to have viable populations in Norway. The goshawk has been downgraded from vulnerable in 2006 to near-threatened in 2010. Knowledge about the impacts of climate change on red-listed species is very limited. In general, a warmer climate will make conditions in Norway more suitable for species with a southerly or south-westerly distribution, but more difficult for species associated with the most northerly forests.

Cervid populations may also be affected by climate change. For example, higher temperatures and an earlier spring may mean that moose calves are no longer born at the right time to be able to feed on the most nutritious plant shoots. This will reduce calf body weight, which in turn will reduce the probability of their surviving the first winter and result in poorer recruitment to the adult population.

Many marginal areas of cultural landscape, particularly in North Norway, along the coast and in the mountains, are becoming overgrown by trees and scrub because they are no longer used and actively managed. This is resulting in the loss of species-rich habitats such as hay meadows and pastures. Climate change may speed up this process and thus make active management even more important.

Wetlands perform a number of important functions, including water filtration and purification and the storage of large quantities of carbon, nitrous oxide and methane. Floodplain wetlands also provide protection against the erosion of river banks and reduce the effects of moderate levels of flooding. In addition they are important habitats for a wide range of species, such as migratory birds that use them as staging areas. Many wetlands in Norway, and particularly peatlands, have been damaged and lost through drainage and conversion into farmland, the removal of peat for fuel, and other types of development. Because water flow is already high in river systems, higher precipitation may increase the transport of soil and sediment, exacerbating erosion. Canalisation of rivers tends to result in faster water flow, and higher and more intense precipitation can increase the risk of flooding.

Climate change may influence biomass production, life cycles and species composition in freshwater ecosystems. Together with an increase in extreme precipitation events and flooding, this will result in more runoff, transport of particulate matter and leaching of nutrients and other pollutants. Higher erosion rates along river banks and runoff of particulate matter and nutrients from farmland may become a greater problem, and such tendencies have already been registered in smaller rivers in Eastern Norway. Particulate matter and pollutants are transported downstream to coastal waters, adding to the overall environmental pressure on marine ecosystems.

Temperatures in excess of 20 ˚C can be critical for sensitive and important fish species such as salmon, trout and Arctic char. In parts of Norway, prolonged periods of summer drought and low water flow are expected, which will also make high water temperatures more likely. Rivers that are regulated for hydropower production, where a minimum water flow has been fixed, may be particularly vulnerable.

In marine waters, climate change will result in higher temperatures, and a higher CO2 content in sea water will lead to ocean acidification, which may have serious impacts on marine ecosystems. A large proportion of CO2 of anthropogenic origin is absorbed by the oceans, where it reacts with water to form carbonic acid, making the seawater more acidic (lowering the pH). The changes will first become apparent in northern waters, because cold water can dissolve more CO2 than warmer water. This can have a range of impacts, particularly on organisms that build calcium carbonate shells and skeletons. They include coralline algae, zooplankton, crustaceans, molluscs and corals. There are many cold-water coral reefs in Norwegian waters, including the world’s largest known cold-water coral reef complex. Coral reefs are among the most species-rich ecosystems, and are a vital habitat for many types of fish. Ocean acidification has negative impacts on these ecosystems, and by the end of this century, up to 70 % of all Norway’s coral communities are expected to show signs of reef erosion. Phytoplankton form the basis of marine ecosystems, and the zooplankton that graze on them are essential food for many fish species. Some plankton species have calcareous skeletons, and may not survive in more acidic seawater. Such changes at low levels in food chains can have major impacts at higher trophic levels.

Higher sea temperatures also enable new species to spread into Norwegian waters from further south, while other species extend their range further northwards. Newly-hatched fish larvae are dependent on specific types of plankton. In the North Sea, quantities of the common copepod Calanus finmarchicus have dropped considerably as the sea temperature has risen; at the same time, the quantities of a plankton species that prefers higher temperatures but is less nutritious have increased. Spawning of C. finmarchicus and the commercially most important fish species is normally synchronised. A decline in C. finmarchicus and an increase in plankton species that spawn later in the season may result in a mismatch between spring-spawning fish and their prey, and also between seabirds and marine mammals and the herring. Some fish species will expand their distribution in response to climate change, while species belonging to Arctic ecosystems, such as Arctic char and polar cod, may disappear from parts of the Barents Sea because of changes in food supplies in the form of zooplankton species associated with the marginal ice zone. However, overall, it is very uncertain how changes in the distribution of fish stocks will affect species composition and total production in marine ecosystems.

Norway’s coastal waters will be influenced by what happens in the open sea as the climate changes, and also by land-based processes. There has been a decline in several coastal cod stocks in recent years. Several factors are probably involved in this, one of which may be climate change. A plan for rebuilding coastal cod stocks has been adopted. It has been suggested that a combination of higher water temperature, eutrophication and sediment deposition explains the loss of sugar kelp forests (important as a nursery area for coastal cod and other species) from many areas along the southern half of the Norwegian coastline. Climate change will have a number of impacts on wild stocks of anadromous salmonids at different stages of their life cycle. A higher water temperature may for example result in changes in the numbers and distribution of important food species for anadromous salmonids in coastal waters and the open sea, and of disease organisms and parasites such as salmon lice. On the other hand, higher precipitation will increase water flow in rivers and the freshwater content in the coastal zone. This may improve conditions for juvenile salmonids in rivers and reduce the impacts of salmon lice. It is important to maintain the genetic diversity of wild salmon stocks, among other things by reducing genetic interaction between farmed and wild salmon, since this will ensure that the species as a whole and the different stocks are more resilient to changes in conditions resulting from climate change. Higher precipitation will also result in more runoff from land, which may lead to sediment deposition and pollution and subsequently to more frequent algal blooms, sometimes of toxic algae.

Seabirds along the coast are subject to a range of different pressures, many of which are caused by human activity – pollution, fisheries, predators, disturbance by people, habitat degradation and the introduction of alien species. Many seabird populations have shown a dramatic decline in recent years. Moreover, a number of seabirds are specialised feeders, which makes them particularly sensitive to climate change and changes in the availability of prey species such as sandeels, herring and capelin.

Climate change will also have consequences for outdoor recreation. Shorter duration of snow cover will reduce opportunities for winter sports in some southern and low-lying parts of Norway, and may encourage more people to travel to the mountains to find good snow conditions. The boating and bathing season in summer will be longer, which may result in more activity along the coastline. The changes will open up opportunities for outdoor recreation and the travel and tourism industry in these areas, but more activity may also increase the pressure on the natural environment in the mountains, in vulnerable Arctic areas and along the coastline. In a warmer and wetter climate, scrub and woodland will encroach more quickly on open cultural landscape, and this will also have impacts on opportunities for outdoor recreation, for example if paths become overgrown and blocked. Higher precipitation and more intense precipitation episodes can cause more damage to paths and other facilities for public access. Climate change may also affect outdoor recreation through factors such as more frequent drought, a greater risk of forest fires and the spread of tick-borne diseases.

Textbox 3.2 Tipping points in ecosystems

The UN report Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 warns that changes in ecosystems may be irreversible if they are pushed past «tipping points», beyond which the ecosystem shifts to a new state and changes character. It is difficult to predict how close we are to particular tipping points, but if they are reached the resulting changes may cause many species to become extinct, which would also have impacts on human food supplies and on biomass production.

3.2 Food production

World food production has increased a great deal in recent decades, in step with the rising global population. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the proportion of people who are undernourished has been reduced in the past 40 years, from about 33 % of the world population in about 1970 to 12.5 % today.5 It now appears that the decline in undernourishment has stopped for various reasons, including food price spikes, more unstable food markets and repercussions of the global financial crisis. The reasons for unstable and at times high food prices are complex and include high oil prices, the use of agricultural land for purposes other than food production, and a growing demand for food in emerging economies. Major food-producing countries have also introduced export restrictions. In the last few years, extreme weather conditions in important food-producing countries have also resulted in lower crop yields. There is still a great deal of potential for developing more effective and sustainable global fisheries, aquaculture and agriculture, but it will be a challenging task for the world community to ensure the necessary increase in food production in the time ahead.

Climate change and higher average temperatures may result in a greater risk of extreme weather events such as flooding and drought. In addition to reductions in crop yields, climate change may increase the prevalence of animal and plant diseases. Drought and water shortages are already causing problems for agriculture in many large food-producing countries. Areas where food security is already poor and where the population is least equipped to adapt to such changes are probably also most vulnerable to climate change. All in all, climate change entails a risk of changes in the basis for world food production, which may cause instability in food production and food markets. Norway is largely self-sufficient in seafood, meat, eggs and milk, and about half of the population’s nutritional needs are met by food produced in Norway. Norway is a major seafood exporter, and exported seafood to a value of more than NOK 50 billion in both 2011 and 2012. However, over the past 10 years, the value of annual imports of agricultural goods into the country has doubled, and reached about NOK 43 billion in 2012. Climate change that has impacts on food production in other countries will therefore also affect Norway. If seafood is included, Norway is currently a significant net exporter of food. Climate change, involving for example higher air and sea temperatures, ocean acidification, unstable weather and changes in precipitation, will have impacts on food production in Norway as well. A moderate rise in temperature combined with adequate water supplies may allow an increase in our food production, particularly in northern parts of the country and upland areas, but higher temperatures and more precipitation may also result in more damage by plant pests such as insects, viruses and fungi, including species that are already present and new species. Higher temperatures, more moisture and a longer growing season may also result in a more varied weed flora that will benefit from the longer growing season, making it necessary to use larger quantities of chemical pesticides. Climate change may also result in changes in the degradation of chemical pesticides and their environmental impacts. Furthermore, higher precipitation and unstable weather may make it more difficult to carry out plant protection measures at the appropriate time of year.

Norway has a short growing season and a cold climate, and agricultural areas are fragmented. There is little arable land in relation to the size of the population, but large areas of grassland and pasture. Norway is a high-cost country, and there is intense competition for skilled labour. These factors, together with economic developments and global trade agreements, influence the development of the Norwegian agricultural sector.

A warmer climate is likely to affect animal health and welfare, and this applies both to livestock and to wild species. Temperature has a considerable effect, and in particular, winter temperatures above a certain threshold may allow a number of organisms that until now have not been found naturally in Norway to become established. Higher moisture levels will have a similar effect for certain plant and animal species. Climate change and globalisation may result in outbreaks of new animal diseases, including diseases that can also be transmitted to people, or allow known diseases to become established in new areas. Wild animals may also be infected, spreading diseases over larger areas and making them more difficult to control. Climate change may particularly affect the prevalence and spread of vector-borne diseases that are transmitted by blood-sucking organisms such as ticks and mosquitoes.

Reindeer husbandry is a particularly vulnerable sector, and may be severely affected by climate change. Ice crust may form on grazing areas in winter, entailing a risk of heavy stock losses. Climate change may also bring a greater risk of stress caused by insects. On the other hand, a higher average temperature may mean that summer grazing grounds can be used for longer periods of the year. Higher precipitation may also result in better food supplies for reindeer because lichens will grow faster, but this is based on the assumption that the lichens are not outcompeted by other species.

Climate change will have impacts on the marine environment, fisheries, aquaculture and coastal infrastructure. The sea will become warmer and also more acidic, as a result of the uptake of large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. There are signs that fish stocks are shifting further northwards and that more southerly species are moving into Norwegian waters, among other things in response to higher seawater temperatures. Ocean acidification may have major impacts on calcifying organisms, and thus on food chains and the availability of food for species at higher trophic levels. Extensive research is being done in this field, but there is still little detailed and reliable knowledge about the impacts these changes will have on marine ecosystems. Climate change may also affect seafood safety. Inputs of contaminants and their spread will be changed by higher precipitation and runoff from land, rising atmospheric deposition and releases from sediments and sea ice, and more human activity in the Arctic. Furthermore, rising temperatures and ocean acidification may influence the transformation and degradation of contaminants, and therefore their toxicity.

There is great uncertainty associated with the economic consequences of climate change for the fisheries industry, and it is therefore difficult to make any quantitative estimates for this sector.

More frequent extreme weather events and sea level rise will have impacts on fisheries and aquaculture infrastructure and on coastal roads. Boats, equipment, safety installations and other infrastructure may have to withstand more severe weather conditions, and must be designed and dimensioned appropriately. If climate change results in more frequent polar lows and an increase in wave heights, this may cause problems, especially for smaller vessels.

For the aquaculture industry, temperature is a key factor, among other things for growth rates, utilisation of feed, algal blooms and disease. Conditions will become less optimal for farmed species that are adapted to cold water as the sea temperature rises. In the long term, rising sea temperature may result in changes in which species are farmed, which are the best areas for aquaculture production and where facilities are located.

The nature and level of the risks associated with communicable diseases in aquaculture species may also change with a rise in seawater temperature. Higher precipitation will result in a greater proportion of fresh water in the fjords: this may influence current patterns in these areas and thus alter the patterns of spread of pathogens. It may also be necessary to change the composition of fish feed in response to higher seawater temperatures.

Aquaculture facilities may need to meet high technical standards to withstand extreme weather events. For example, it is important to avoid damage that may allow fish to escape from these facilities.

Textbox 3.3 Norwegian seafood contributes to global food security

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012 stressed the crucial role of fisheries and aquaculture in global food security. Norway is a net exporter of food products, mainly because of its large-scale production of seafood, 95 % of which is exported. We are the second largest exporter of seafood in the world, and in 2012 exported about 2.3 million tonnes of seafood to a value of NOK 51.6 billion to more than 150 countries. It is estimated that the Norwegian fishing and aquaculture industry provides 33 million meals of seafood every day. Sustainable resource management and aquaculture management, and Norwegian fisheries and aquaculture technology, also contribute indirectly to global food security, and Norwegian management expertise is in great demand internationally. FAO estimates that fishing and aquaculture currently meet about 8 % of global food needs.

Figure 3.4 Norwegian salmon

Figure 3.4 Norwegian salmon

Photo: Richard Hauglin/NTBscanpix

3.3 Human life and health

Public health is generally good in Norway. This gives us a good starting point for coping with changes in health risks. Climate-related factors always affect people’s health, and climate is already a general risk factor in Norway.

A warmer climate may affect public health in a number of ways, but the main effect will be to intensify the health risks posed by today’s climate. The quality of drinking water may become poorer, increasing the risk of waterborne infections. The prevalence of communicable diseases may rise as conditions become more suitable for infective agents such as ticks and mosquitoes. A longer and more intense pollen season may aggravate the symptoms of people who suffer from allergic diseases. Climate change may also have indirect impacts on health if for example medical transport services are blocked by damage to transport or other critical infrastructure caused by extreme weather events. However, climate change is not expected to cause any large changes in mortality in Norway.

Climate change may result in a negative trend in drinking water quality. In general terms, the impacts can be split into two categories, impacts on the raw water and water treatment plants, and impacts on the distribution infrastructure. About 90 % of the Norwegian population is supplied with drinking water from surface water sources. Climate change will probably result in higher average water temperature, more intense precipitation and more frequent flooding in such water sources. These changes will in turn increase the likelihood of larger numbers of microorganisms and larger amounts of organic material, nutrients and pollutants in water sources. Norway’s 48 largest water works (which supply more than 20 000 people each, and 2.6 million people in total) can maintain drinking water quality even if the raw water quality deteriorates, but this is probably not the case for most of the smaller water works.

During periods of intense precipitation, a rise in the groundwater level and water levels in drainage channels may result in polluted water seeping into water pipelines and other parts of the water supply infrastructure. There is no satisfactory information on which parts of the water distribution system are most vulnerable. The situation may deteriorate if the drinking water and sewerage pipelines become overloaded.

In future, raw water from drinking water sources is likely to be of poorer quality, and problems in the water pipelines are likely to arise more frequently. The National Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health have assessed the vulnerability of parts of the drinking water pipeline system to be high. The vulnerability of raw water sources and water treatment plants is also relatively high, but lower than is the case for water pipelines.6

Food- and water-borne infections are among the commonest infections both in Norway and in other parts of the world. They are considered to be particularly sensitive to climate change, and show seasonal variation)*.

Textbox 3.4 Climate change will influence the risk of food- and water-borne diseases

There are factors along the entire production chain from fjord or farm to fork that will be influenced by climate change.

  • Certain types of food- and water-borne infections that are not currently common in Norway may become more widespread as farmers have to operate in warmer and wetter conditions.

  • Heat waves or extreme precipitation may be stressful for livestock and increase the risk of diseases. Heat stress may also cause injury and higher mortality, for example during transport for slaughter.

  • Climate change may create new ecological niches, with changes in the bird and mammal fauna and corresponding changes in the microbial ecology, which may entail a higher risk of disease among livestock as well. This in turn may result in a higher risk of pathogens in food.

  • Changes in the conditions for algal and plankton growth in the sea and in freshwater may increase the risk of diseases associated with fish and seafood.

  • Drinking water quality may deteriorate if higher precipitation results in overloading of sewerage systems.

  • It will become more difficult to maintain food hygiene standards in restaurants, institutions, workplaces and private households under warmer and wetter conditions

  • Most infectious intestinal disease occurs during the summer months, and a longer summer will result in a higher risk of such infections.

  • A higher prevalence of infections in livestock may result in higher consumption of antibiotics, increasing the risk that resistance will develop. More widespread resistance to antibiotics will make it more difficult to treat infections both in livestock and in humans.

Source Helsekonsekvenser av klimaendringer i Norge, Bakgrunnsmateriale til NOU Klimatilpasning, 2010, Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Directorate of Health. (Health effects of climate change in Norway. Background material for Official Norwegian Report on climate change adaptation. In Norwegian only.)

Climate change may also entail a higher risk of vector-borne diseases carried by organisms such as mosquitoes, ticks and snails. These diseases spread because the distribution of vector species expands with higher temperatures, their populations grow, and they are active for longer periods of the year. Internationally, there is concern that diseases such as malaria, schistosomiasis, dengue and various types of encephalitis transmitted by mosquitoes or ticks may spread to new areas. As regards malaria and dengue, the higher risk is largely associated with travel abroad. It is less likely that these two diseases will become established in Norway.

An important disease vector in Norway is the sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus), which can carry a variety of diseases, including borreliosis (or Lyme disease), anaplasmosis, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), babesiosis and tularaemia. At present, sheep ticks are common near the coast from part-way up the Oslofjord to Brønnøysund in Nordland, but there are also scattered records from further inland. In recent years, there has been an increase in tick numbers, probably associated with higher temperatures, a longer growing season, an increase in moose, roe deer and red deer populations, and overgrowing of open landscapes, which is favourable for ticks.

Figure 3.5 Tick distribution is related to the length of the growing season

Figure 3.5 Tick distribution is related to the length of the growing season

The left-hand map shows the length of the growing season in Norway in the period 1961–90. The distribution of sheep ticks today coincides with the area where the growing season lasts for 176–180 days or more (coloured orange to red on the map). The right-hand map shows projections for the length of the growing season in the period 2071–2100, according to the model Hadley A2 2071–2100. This indicates that the growing season will last for 176–180 days or more in almost all lowland areas of Norway except in the far north.

Source Norwegian Meteorological Institute 2013

The duration of the growing season and snow cover are probably the key climatic factors in determining tick distribution. According to projections of the length of the growing season in the period up to 2100, all lowland areas of Norway except in the far north will probably provide suitable conditions for ticks. It is therefore assumed that the prevalence of tick-borne diseases may increase with the expansion of suitable tick habitat.

Higher temperatures and a greater risk of heat waves may entail greater health risks in future, although this will probably not have major implications for public health in Norway in the near future. The increase in mortality associated with heat waves indicates that people with chronic diseases and the elderly are most vulnerable. A rise in the risk of prolonged heat waves in Norway is to be expected, but there have been no studies of the possible effects on public health. On the other hand, a reduction in cold-related mortality is expected, since the risk of prolonged extreme cold will be reduced as a result of global warming.

Air quality may also be affected by climate change. A longer pollen season and the introduction of new aeroallergens as species spread northwards with the rising temperatures will result in a higher risk of symptoms in the allergic population and a higher prevalence of pollen allergies in Norway. It is considered likely that the quantity and/or potency of important pollen types will increase, and that the distribution of existing and perhaps new types of pollen-producing plants will expand. Air pollution may worsen; for example, there may be higher levels of ground-level ozone and changes in the composition of airborne particulate matter.

Climate change may entail a greater risk of flooding and landslides or avalanches later in the present century. This may result in such events in locations where they have not previously occurred, which will entail a greater risk to human life and health. However, precisely how and to what extent climate change will influence this risk is uncertain.

3.4 Infrastructure

Both society and individuals are dependent on access to electricity, transport and communications, water, waste management services and shelter. Much of the infrastructure that provides these services is designated as critical infrastructure, and society makes substantial resources available for ensuring that it is resilient to various types of stress. Almost all infrastructure is sensitive to climate variability and therefore vulnerable to climate change. The vulnerability of infrastructure, including buildings, has major implications for the ways in which society is affected by climate change.

Infrastructure comprises roads, airports, railways, ports, the electricity grid, ICT infrastructure, water supply and sewerage systems, waste management services and buildings. All these infrastructure elements are interdependent. The power supply is essential for the maintenance of vital societal functions, and a functioning ICT infrastructure is necessary for a stable power supply. If the power supply is disrupted, it is crucial that the transport system functions so that repairs can be carried out. However, at present the maintenance backlog for the building stock and other infrastructure is a considerable challenge. Climate change will increase the need for maintenance and thus the problems posed by the maintenance backlog. The interdependence of these factors will intensify the overall vulnerability of infrastructure to climate change.

However, in the report Adapting to a changing climate (NOU 2010: 10), the committee pointed out that the degree of vulnerability to climate change varies with the type of infrastructure, among other things with the various operational lifetimes. Roads and railways that are being constructed today have a long lifetime and must be designed to cope with different types of stress over the very long term, whereas cables in the ICT infrastructure have a short lifetime and this infrastructure has a high adaptive capacity. Priorities, divisions of responsibility and the resources available for adaptation also influence the degree of vulnerability, and these factors make for example the water and sewerage sector especially vulnerable.

Society is dependent on a well-functioning transport system. It is essential to avoid disruption to road, rail, sea and air traffic for individuals, emergency services, businesses and other key services and actors.

The problems caused by the current maintenance backlog in the land transport sector, both roads and railways, will be intensified by climate change. In recent years flooding, landslides and avalanches have in some cases had serious consequences for the transport network and shown that roads and railways are already vulnerable and will be even more vulnerable to future climate change. Higher precipitation levels will put more pressure on drainage systems. The higher risk of flooding, landslides and avalanches is a threat to traffic safety, and may increase the frequency of disruption and cause considerably more damage to both roads and railways. Sea level rise and storm surges may cause wave erosion and inundation, which may disrupt traffic and lead to erosion damage. This could also increase the risk of water flowing into undersea tunnels, and increase stresses and erosion of road embankments and bridge foundations.

Maritime traffic along the coast is important for Norway, and is dependent on infrastructure in the form of fairways, lighthouses, buoys, breakwaters, and ports and their associated infrastructure. The wind, wave and current conditions along the Norwegian coast already pose problems for maritime transport, and climate change may aggravate these conditions and increase the loads and wear on lighthouses, buoys, breakwaters and quays. Sea level rise, storm surges, ocean acidification and harsher weather conditions will make infrastructure operation and maintenance a more challenging task. Navigation infrastructure, breakwaters, port facilities and so on must be designed to withstand more rapid corrosion as a result of ocean acidification.

Norwegian airports will be affected by climate change in different ways and to different degrees. Many airports in coastal areas are situated on flat land close to the shore or open water, which makes them vulnerable to the effects of higher water levels and high waves. The infrastructure of these airports is vulnerable, and safety zones and lighting facilities may suffer from erosion. Wet runways reduce braking action and higher precipitation levels will make drainage for stormwater runoff more important but also more difficult. At some airports more frequent temperature fluctuations around freezing point and more precipitation in the form of snow will pose problems for winter maintenance and snow clearance. Changes in wind strength and direction, turbulence and perhaps more frequent extreme low pressure events may affect air traffic.

Norway’s power supply is primarily based on hydropower, and the country has about 1 700 hydropower dams. These run-of-river or storage hydropower systems deliver electricity through the nationwide electricity grid. Higher precipitation resulting from climate change will probably make it possible to increase electricity production, while higher temperatures may reduce the demand for electricity. The electricity supply system is designed to withstand extreme weather events. This is a critical infrastructure, since society depends on a secure and stable power supply in order to function. Major disruption of the power supply would have significant economic consequences and pose a threat to life and health.

Today the power supply system is vulnerable to climate conditions, and about half of all power cuts and disruption of the electricity grid are weather-related. While lightning is the most common cause of power cuts, these can also be caused by other factors such as overgrown vegetation, fallen trees, snow and ice. However, the NOU committee considers that the electricity sector infrastructure is well adapted to today’s climate.

Some of the factors that constitute risks to the electricity supply today may become more pronounced in future. Higher humidity, higher precipitation, a longer growing season and more rapid shifts between frost and thaws and wet and dry periods may increase the need for maintenance. A higher frequency of extreme weather events involving lightning strikes, icing on power lines in areas that previously had stable cold conditions, extreme heat, flooding, landslides and avalanches, rising sea levels and less stable seasonally frozen ground may result in more frequent damage. The higher risk of landslides and avalanches could affect the safety of dams, since a slide into a reservoir can cause damage to dams and other infrastructure.

Climate change will also result in a need for new power lines, for example to take account of increased hydropower production.

Buildings account for a large proportion of society’s investment in infrastructure. In 2008 there were 3.8 million buildings in Norway, 40 % of which were residential. About 80 % of today’s buildings will still be standing in 2050. Buildings are vulnerable to a number of different types of natural hazards, including those caused by extreme weather events. In 2011 insurance companies registered 37 113 cases of damage resulting from water entering buildings, and according to Finance Norway, the compensation payments amounted to a total of NOK 2.2 billion. Many of the risks to buildings posed by climate factors may be intensified by climate change. The most important variables will be higher precipitation, exposure to humidity, and changes in wind patterns. Sea level rise and higher precipitation will mean that humidity becomes more of a problem, and the risk of exposure to decay is expected to increase in large parts of the country. A higher frequency of extreme weather events such as storm surges, landslides and avalanches, and flooding will pose risks to buildings in exposed locations, and the large maintenance backlog, especially in the municipal building stock, will increase the risks.

Higher precipitation will result in a warmer, more humid climate and an increase in the decay of wooden materials. Today 615 000 buildings in Norway are in the high decay hazard category. According to SINTEF Building and Infrastructure, this figure will increase substantially. By 2100, a total of 2.4 million of today’s buildings will be in the high decay hazard category, and this will include to virtually all the buildings in Oslo, which are currently in the moderate decay hazard category (just over 125 000 buildings). In Hordaland about 190 000 buildings, or well over half the total stock, are currently in areas where the decay hazard is high, and this will increase to about 220 000 of the existing buildings. In addition, a large proportion of the building stock in Buskerud, Oppland and Hedmark will be affected by a rise in annual precipitation of more than 25 %.7

Figure 3.6 Buildings – estimated changes in decay hazard

Figure 3.6 Buildings – estimated changes in decay hazard

Source Lisø, K.R. and Kvande, T.: Klimatilpasning av bygninger (Climate-proofing Buildings, in Norwegian) SINTEF Building and Infrastructure, Oslo 2007.

In Norway almost 90 % of the population are connected to the water supply and sewerage systems, which are municipally owned. Well-functioning water supply and sewerage systems are essential to health and for maintaining the natural environment and societal functions in general. Even today, many municipalities suffer from flood and water damage and sewage backup resulting from intense precipitation events. This may be due to under-dimensioning of the sewerage system and increased densification of urban areas, which in turn results in overloading of the system. Studies indicate that there is a maintenance backlog in these sectors, and the problem of poorer quality raw water in drinking water sources is growing, due to higher temperatures and precipitation and greater volumes of runoff. Climate change will increase the risk of disruption of water supply and sewerage services. More stormwater runoff is also likely to lead to overloading of sewerage pipes and waste water treatment plants. If large volumes of stormwater enter the sewerage network, unnecessarily large volumes of water have to be processed through the sewerage treatment system, resulting in lower treatment efficiency. Intense precipitation events and flooding may increase the pollution risk due to polluted water from submerged pipes and cisterns seeping into the distribution network for drinking water.

Climate change may also put pressure on ICT infrastructure, in the form of flooding, landslides, avalanches and icing of power lines. However, this sector is less vulnerable than many other infrastructure areas since new technology is continually being developed and installations upgraded. The sector is fairly well adapted today, but in the long run measures to adapt to climate change and ensure delivery will have to be considered. Norway’s widespread use of new and existing ICT technology gives the country a high degree of resilience. ICT systems play an important role in ensuring efficient electricity distribution, and ICT tools also play an important role in early warning and emergency response systems.

3.5 The Norwegian business sector

The Norwegian business sector consists of more than 350 000 enterprises in many different sectors located in all parts of the country. The effects of climate change on the various sectors will depend on the nature and location of the sector and its connection to the necessary infrastructure. The diversity of the business sector makes it difficult to gain an overview of the all the problems related to climate change faced by the sector as a whole. In some sectors, such as forestry, climate change will alter the framework for production and profitability. Others, such as many of the service industries, will primarily be affected if climate change leads to disruption of services on which they depend. At the same time the business sector is a key actor in efforts to make society more resilient to climate change, since it is businesses that are responsible for developing and constructing buildings and other infrastructure, and thus supply goods and services that will be substantially affected by climate change.

All businesses will be indirectly affected by climate change through the vulnerability of services on which they depend. This applies among other things to infrastructure, such as communications (roads, railways, air and maritime transport), water supply and sewerage, power supplies, the electricity grid, ICT infrastructure, and buildings and equipment, all of which are largely outside the control of the individual business. Resilient infrastructure, communications and energy supplies are essential for the maintenance of the welfare society, for future value creation and for the competitiveness of the business sector. Thus the impacts of climate change on society’s infrastructure in the broadest sense will also have consequences for the business sector.

The pace of restructuring in the business sector influences the degree to which the various businesses are affected by climate change and how rapidly they can adapt to new climatic conditions. This applies particularly to service industries such as the tourist industry. However, in the next few decades the industrial structure will have changed dramatically; for example, two of three new Norwegian businesses have a lifetime of less than five years, and in 50 years’ time most of them will probably no longer exist and have been replaced by new ones and new markets. In the course of this century the technology and products used by businesses today will have been replaced several times. This flexibility and adaptive capacity is likely to make businesses more resilient to climate change.

The need and capacity to restructure in response to climate change vary from sector to sector. The primary and related industries such as fish processing will be directly affected by climate change and will have to undergo major adaptations in order to maintain their earning power and profitability under new climatic conditions. For example, certain businesses might need to adapt by moving northwards from the coast of Western Norway to follow shifts in the distribution of resources such as fish stocks. This also applies to service industries that are directly related to the primary industries and outdoor industries. For example, a shorter winter season will in some areas have a significant impact on the operation of ski resorts and the hotel industry in winter sports areas. Thus climate change could have serious impacts on small local communities reliant on a single industry. Such situations will require high adaptive capacity and measures to facilitate knowledge-based business development.

However, climate change may also provide opportunities for new business activities and value creation; for example, it could increase profitability in the electricity sector. An analysis conducted in connection with the report Adapting to a changing climate (NOU 2010: 10) estimated that production will increase by 7–22 % in the second half of this century. On the basis of certain assumptions about future prices, this means that revenues from hydropower production could increase by NOK 5–16 billion annually. Another example is the melting of the Arctic sea ice, which could open up new opportunities for maritime transport. Ice-free routes across the Arctic Ocean and through the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage provide new opportunities for maritime transport in polar waters. For example, for ships sailing from Asia to Europe, the Northeast Passage would be about 40 % shorter than the route through the Suez Canal, and bunker oil consumption about 20 % lower. However, the volume of international commercial maritime traffic in the future is uncertain. Proximity to the Arctic will probably give Norwegian companies a competitive edge and increase the use of ports in North Norway. However, a greater volume of maritime traffic in the Arctic will pose a risk to the vulnerable environment. Extreme weather conditions, the period of darkness in winter, incomplete mapping, inadequate communication systems and ice-covered waters are constant challenges. The remoteness of these areas also makes search and rescue operations, and preparedness and response to acute pollution, difficult and costly. As for transport in other waters, ensuring safe maritime transport in polar waters requires rules for ship standards and crew qualifications, and the necessary maritime infrastructure.

The insurance sector is in a unique position because insurance products are directly affected by climate change. By assuming the risk of unforeseen damage, including that related to natural hazards, on behalf of other actors, insurance companies play a potentially important role in reducing vulnerability and promoting progress towards a climate-resilient society. The sector also has the potential to create incentives for climate change adaptation by imposing requirements on policy-holders, including businesses, to take preventive measures to reduce damage resulting from climate change. The role of the insurance sector is described in more detail in Chapter 6.5.

3.6 Cultural heritage

Tangible cultural heritage is a non-renewable resource that allows us to understand and appreciate the past and people’s lives and activities in previous times. It also serves as a source of enjoyment and enhances the quality of life and of the environment. The loss of any part of the cultural heritage can be a loss for individuals, local communities and society as a whole.

Textbox 3.5 Cultural monuments, sites and environments

The Cultural Heritage Act defines cultural monuments, sites and environments as «all traces of human activity in our physical environment, including places associated with historical events, beliefs and traditions.» The individual cultural monument or site is usually part of a larger context that is also meaningful: a cultural environment. In addition, a cultural environment may consist of elements that are not in themselves important but that taken together form a visual or functional whole of great cultural and historical value.

More than 250 000 archaeological monuments and sites have been registered in Norway, but there are far more that are unknown. Some, like burial mounds, rock carvings and animal trapping systems, are easily visible. Others are hidden below the ground, like stone-age sites and medieval streets and alleys, or under water, like sacrificial offerings and submerged sites. Monuments and sites dating back to before 1537 are automatically protected under the Cultural Heritage Act. The same applies to Sami monuments and sites that are more than 100 years old, and pre-1946 structures and sites in Svalbard.

In Norway there are around 6 000 buildings that are protected under the Cultural Heritage Act and about another 5 500 in museums. Around 1 000 churches are protected or registered and managed in the same way as protected buildings. In some cases the surroundings are also protected, for example historic gardens or valuable cultural landscapes. In addition a large number of buildings are regulated for protection under the Planning and Building Act. Around 375 000 buildings were built before 1900. Most of them have no statutory protection, but many of them are historically important.

As part of the efforts to prepare the cultural heritage authorities to deal with the consequences of climate change for cultural heritage management, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage has headed a Nordic cooperation project on the effects of climate change on cultural heritage. The resulting report, «Climate change and cultural heritage in the Nordic countries» (TemaNord 2010:599), concluded that the acute effects of extreme weather events such as storms, flooding, landslides and intense precipitation, and the more long-term effects of sea level rise, warmer temperatures, higher humidity and higher precipitation, can be expected to result in more damage to cultural heritage sites, increased loss of such sites, changes in conservation conditions and new finds of archaeological artefacts and sites.

Textbox 3.6 Nordic cooperation

The project «Effects of climate change on cultural heritage sites and cultural environments» was established as a collaboration between the cultural heritage administrations of seven Nordic countries: Iceland, Greenland, the Faeroe Islands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway. It was primarily financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers, and the aim was to assist cultural heritage administrations to prepare for the expected consequences of climate change and to strengthen Nordic collaboration and network building between the Nordic cultural heritage administrations. The published report, «Climate change and cultural heritage in the Nordic countries» (TemaNord 2010:599) contains the main results and conclusions.

A higher frequency of extreme weather events such as flooding, landslides and avalanches, storms and intense precipitation will increase the risk of damage to buildings and archaeological material. Global mean sea level is now rising by about 3 mm per year, and in the coming century will probably rise by considerably more than this. Rising sea levels and larger storm surges will threaten built-up areas close to the coast and other elements of the cultural heritage in exposed areas. Extreme rainfall events are likely to lead to flooding and will threaten urban landscapes with inadequate storm drain systems.

Textbox 3.7 Karmøy

Karmøy is located in the coastal area where the sea level will rise most. Historical buildings connected with trade, fisheries and shipping are usually situated right on the sea front. During the storm Inga in 2005, storm surges, waves and wind damaged a number of historic buildings in Karmøy municipality.

During its restoration, the foundations of the old seahouse that now houses the Åkrehamn Coast Museum were raised by 60 cm to create a buffer against a rise in sea level. Raising the foundations of buildings is one of several measures that need to be considered when important buildings have to be protected from rising sea levels.

Figure 3.7 Nordneshuset in Skudeneshavn. A tourist attraction in Karmøy.

Figure 3.7 Nordneshuset in Skudeneshavn. A tourist attraction in Karmøy.

Photo: Robert Harding Images/Masterfile/NTBscanpix

More gradual processes of climate change will put more pressure on the cultural heritage. A more humid climate will increase the risk of biological, physical and chemical decomposition of cultural monuments, and wooden buildings and elements will be at higher risk of decay and damage from pests. About four of five protected buildings in Norway are constructed of wood, and in virtually all of the remaining buildings wood is used in roof structures or beams.

Higher temperatures lead to thawing of the permafrost, which is already a threat to the conservation of archaeological remains in Svalbard. Coastal erosion in Svalbard is also increasing due to the declining extent of the sea ice. Because so much of the cultural heritage in the archipelago is located on the coast, coastal erosion is a serious threat. Svalbard’s cultural heritage used to be referred to as being frozen in time, or preserved through natural freeze-drying processes in the cold climate. Archaeological excavations of whalers’ graves undertaken in the 1980s revealed 17th- and 18th-century corpses that still had skin and hair and almost intact woollen clothing. However, due to the warmer and more humid climate, many of the archaeological remains in the Arctic have now reached a critical point as regards conservation.

Textbox 3.8 Climate change and Svalbard’s cultural heritage

The supports for the aerial cableway that are so characteristic of Longyearbyen are beginning to rot where the poles are in contact with the damp soil. The active layer of the permafrost is becoming deeper, causing settling and damage to buildings; for example cracks are appearing in the brick walls of Pyramiden, the former Soviet and now Russian settlement. The ice in the fjords and along the coast, which weakens wave action, is melting, and erosion is a growing problem throughout the Arctic. The hunting station Fredheim on the Sassenfjorden in Svalbard is a high-priority cultural environment that is threatened by erosion. In 2001 the oldest cabin, dating back to 1911, was moved 6 m away from the sea shore. The main cabin, dating back to 1924, which was 17.7 m from the shore in 1987, is now only 8 m away. Together with a project group from the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), the authorities are considering moving the whole complex further inland.

Figure 3.8 Supports for an aerial cableway from a coal mine in Svalbard, part of its protected cultural heritage.

Figure 3.8 Supports for an aerial cableway from a coal mine in Svalbard, part of its protected cultural heritage.

Photo: Ministry of the Environment

A milder climate will prolong the growing season, speeding up vegetation growth so that areas around heritage buildings and sites and cultural landscapes will become more rapidly overgrown. A large number of archaeological sites and protected buildings in Norway are situated in existing or previous farmland that is at high risk of becoming overgrown. Once woodland has encroached on heritage sites, there is a risk of damage from tree roots or from windthrow, which puts buildings at risk of physical decomposition and decay. Another effect of overgrowing can be to alter the historical landscape context of cultural monuments, obscuring their original function in the landscape. This reduces people’s enjoyment and consequently the utility value of the site, which in turn reduces opportunities for value creation and learning opportunities for the public.

There is hard evidence of the climate change now taking place in the form of the hundreds of archaeological artefacts that are being exposed by the melting snowpack in the mountains of Norway. They date from different historical periods, and the oldest, which have been discovered in the Jotunheimen mountains, date back more than 3 000 years. In earlier historical periods people were drawn to the mountain snowpack and glaciers by the opportunities for reindeer hunting, and most of the finds are linked with this activity. They are mainly made of organic materials that have been well preserved by the cold ice, but when exposed to air begin decomposing rapidly.

Textbox 3.9 Klimapark2469

Mímisbrunnr Klimapark2469 is the result of a cross-disciplinary collaboration in the fields of archaeology, glaciology, meteorology and botany, and is situated in the alpine zone close to the Juvfonna glacier at the foot of Galdhøpiggen, Norway’s highest mountain, in Lom municipality. The intention is to provide a unique arena for research, value creation and information about climate change, cultural heritage and the mountain landscape from a long-term perspective. Climate change research is a rapidly developing field, and Klimapark2469 aims to teach children and young people, and the public in general, more about the historical climate. Klimapark2469 provides an opportunity to physically experience current climate processes and interactions between nature and humans. The main attraction is the Mímisbrunnr ice tunnel dug into the glacier, which was opened to the public this year. It replaces the first tunnel, which had to be closed after two years of rapid ice melt.

Figure 3.9 Reindeer scare-stick emerging from the Juvfonna glacier, Jotunheimen.

Figure 3.9 Reindeer scare-stick emerging from the Juvfonna glacier, Jotunheimen.

Photo: Bård Løken/Samfoto/NTBscanpix

3.7 The Sami culture and way of life

Today there are traditional Sami settlements in Norway in the region extending from Engerdal in northern Hedmark and all the way to the border with Russia. The Sami are recognised as an indigenous population with special rights in this country, and Norway has undertaken to ensure that they have the opportunity to practise their traditional culture and economic activities.

Sami culture and economic activities are so closely linked with natural resources that climate change is likely to have substantial effects on both. However, other economic and social factors are also expected to alter the framework for traditional Sami culture, and climate change is thus one of several factors that will affect this people’s culture and way of life.

Figure 3.10 From a Sami settlement in Kaperdalen Museum, Troms, from the beginning of the 1900s. Window in a gamme (turf house) from the early 1900s, used by forest Sami until the 1960s.

Figure 3.10 From a Sami settlement in Kaperdalen Museum, Troms, from the beginning of the 1900s. Window in a gamme (turf house) from the early 1900s, used by forest Sami until the 1960s.

Photo: Øystein Søbye/Samfoto/NTBscanpix

The Sami culture and way of life rely heavily on the natural resource base in their traditional settlement areas and other areas they utilise. Sami activities such as sea fishing, reindeer husbandry, agriculture, salmon fishing, commercial activities based on uncultivated land, and combinations of these, are important bearers of Sami culture, and these activities are likely to be affected by climate change. An example is Sami reindeer husbandry, which is practised in an area extending from Hedmark in the south to Finnmark in the north. Reindeer husbandry is nomadic, and the reindeer are moved between different seasonal grazing grounds. Because this requires extensive areas and because the animals graze outside all year round, reindeer husbandry is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Climate change will be additional to a variety of other disturbances and will affect the use and quality of the grazing grounds. Climate change adaptation measures for reindeer husbandry are described in Chapter 8.2.

Other Sami industries on land are also under pressure and the problems are expected to increase as a result of climate change. For example, new species of geometrid moths may damage birch forest in many parts of North Norway, and also have impacts on the field-layer vegetation. Large areas of birch forest in Finnmark, the county with the largest Sami population in Norway, are vulnerable to outbreaks of geometrid larvae, and this may have impacts on the fauna and thus for hunting and other uses of these areas.

Climate change may also have impacts on marine industries, since higher sea temperatures may result in a northward shift in the distribution of wild stocks and in where aquaculture organisms are farmed. We do not know exactly how climate change will affect the livelihoods and way of life of the sea Sami. Changes in the species composition of marine ecosystems may cause problems, but may also create new opportunities for fjord and coastal fisheries in Sami areas. Whether or not such changes have economic and social benefits will depend on the fish species involved, seasonal changes in their distribution and the extent to which the fishers are able to take advantage of new fisheries opportunities and at the same time address new problems resulting from climate change and its impacts in Arctic areas. Climate change adaptation measures for fisheries and aquaculture are described in Chapter 8.2.

The close links between livelihoods and Sami culture make this people vulnerable to climate change. However, their history of harvesting natural resources despite climate and weather variability has given them a sound foundation of experience and knowledge. The Sami have always shown considerable flexibility in adapting and diversifying their traditional economic activities. Extensive, diversified harvesting of both terrestrial and marine natural resources has allowed them to adapt to fluctuations in the resource base, and is the reason why so many Sami combine different income-generating activities such as agriculture, fisheries, reindeer husbandry and harvesting other resources from uncultivated areas. Combinations that include paid employment and tourism are becoming increasingly common. This flexibility in their use of traditional resources by combining different forms of harvesting and harvesting from different areas has made the Sami highly adaptable.

It is important in the context of climate change adaptation to consider how various measures will affect indigenous communities. For example, it is important to ensure that the goal of maintaining the foundation for traditional Sami industries can be met and to recognise the value of traditional knowledge in addressing climate change. Competence- and capacity-building within the Sami community will also be essential to meet these challenges. Sound methods of gathering and using traditional knowledge and capacity should be developed to equip the Sami to take advantage of any new opportunities that may arise in traditional occupations, while adapting to the new needs that may result from climate change.

The overriding question from the perspective of the Sami and other indigenous peoples in the Arctic is how to equip these communities to address and adapt to the inevitable climate change while at the same time safeguarding the role and value of their traditional knowledge. Care must therefore be taken to ensure that climate change adaptation measures do not weaken the foundation for traditional Sami industries and thereby undermine Sami culture.



Rusch, G. M. (2012): Climate and ecosystem services. The potential of Norwegian ecosystems for climate mitigation and adaptation. – NINA Report 791.


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC


Gamfeldt, L. et al. Higher levels of multiple ecosystem services are found in forests with more tree species. Nature Communications (2012)


Aerts, R. and Honnay, O. Forest restoration, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. BMC Ecol. 2011: 11:29.


FAO, WFP and IFAD. 2012. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012. Economic growth is necessary but not sufficient to accelerate reduction of hunger and malnutrition. Rome, FAO . Figure corrected from 15 % to 12.5 % in the translation


Source: Helsekonsekvenser av klimaendringer i Norge, Bakgrunnsmateriale til NOU 2010: 10 Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Norwegian Directorate of Health (Health effects of climate change in Norway. Background material for Official Norwegian Report on climate change adaptation. In Norwegian only)


Source: Lisø, K.R. and Kvande, T.: Klimatilpasning av bygninger (Climate proofing buildings, in Norwegian), SINTEF Building and Infrastructure, Oslo 2007.

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