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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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5 A shared knowledge platform

The Government:

  • intends to ensure that the knowledge base for climate change adaptation is strengthened through closer monitoring of climate change, continued expansion of climate change research and the development of a national centre for climate services.

Global climate change is already resulting in major changes for many local communities in Norway. Towards the end of this century, the consequences of climate change for both nature and society will become more and more marked.

5.1 A shared need for knowledge

Knowledge is an essential basis for effective climate change adaptation. The need for more knowledge is a recurring theme in nearly all areas affected by climate change. Generation and dissemination of basic knowledge about climate change in Norway is largely organised under the auspices of the public authorities. In 2013, the Research Council of Norway will provide funding totalling an estimated NOK 400 million for climate research, about twice as much as in 2005. This research is carried out at universities, university colleges and other institutes that supplement the funding with resources of their own. Norwegian researchers are also taking part in a range of EU-funded research projects. This section following presents basic knowledge needs related to the climate and climate change across sectors. They are based on the report Adapting to a changing climate (NOU 2010: 10) and the report presented by Klima21, the Government’s strategic forum for climate research.

Social transformation and adaptation in response to climate change

More frequent and more severe extreme weather events will mean an increasing risk of losses and damage, and will entail substantial economic costs. Effective preventive work requires knowledge of how exposure to climate-related risks increases in different sectors and in local communities. More knowledge is needed about the future costs of climate change, and how adaptation needs can be incorporated and taken into account in current policy and planning.

Research should help to identify the instruments and policies that will best enable us to promote a low-emission economy and at the same time address the impacts of climate change. The links between adaptation to and mitigation of climate change are becoming increasingly important. Social science research on climate change has been strengthened in recent years, but we still need much more knowledge on how climate change considerations can be incorporated into practical policies and specific measures.

Climate change will have political, social and cultural implications. To make climate policy more effective, we need a better understanding of changes in value systems, management systems, financial institutions and technological and biological systems. This also involves questions relating to the development of prosperity, general framework conditionsand changes in attitudes and behaviour. The way people communicate about climate change is an important research topic in itself.

The climate in the Arctic is changing rapidly, which is opening up new prospects for economic activity and boosting international interest in the region. Commercial activities are expected to expand in the years ahead, and the Arctic environment is vulnerable. New and expanded activity must therefore be based on sound knowledge of the risks and environmental impacts associated with different types of commercial activities.

For the primary industries, it is particularly important to ensure that any new opportunities arising from climate change are included in research and development activities.

Impacts on nature and society

Human society is dependent on ecosystem services such as food supplies, pollination, access to clean drinking water and flood control. More knowledge is needed about how climate change will affect ecosystem services in Norway and neighbouring areas, including the economic impacts. We also need a good overview of the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems, the resilience of ecosystems, and the tipping points beyond which changes may be irreversible. Moreover, it is important to improve understanding of interactions between climate change and ocean acidification, persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances and other pollutants, changes in biodiversity, and other environmental pressures. The environmental authorities need to receive new information about changes in ecosystems on an ongoing basis, so that uncertainty about trends for key populations and species can be reduced. The boundaries of a number of climate zones and ecological systems go through Norwegian waters, and this means that knowledge about changes in ecosystems and species distribution in response to climate change is particularly important for Norway. Studies of key species and further development of ecosystem models can provide important information as a basis for climate change adaptation.

The uptake of CO2 in seawater is resulting in ocean acidification. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this will particularly affect the Arctic and other cold regions. Climate change combined with ocean acidification will have major impacts on the marine environment, and more knowledge is needed about the impacts of ocean acidification on ecosystems, fisheries and aquaculture. More intensive monitoring and identification of suitable indicator species will be needed in this connection.

Flooding, landslides and avalanches put pressure on important infrastructure such as roads, railways, ICT infrastructure, buildings, and energy, water and waste water installations. Climate change will affect the economic base for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture and other food production. Many sectors and industries are vulnerable both to gradual changes and to extreme weather events, and more reliable and more detailed local knowledge is needed about the impacts of climate change in a number of different areas. More knowledge is also needed about the impacts on different sectors and industries, for example through vulnerability and risk assessments, and on which types of investments, operating routines and rules will result in effective transformation and adaptation.

The climate system and climate change

In the 2012 white paper on Norwegian climate policy (Meld. St. 21 (2011–2012)), the Government announced that it would make a substantial contribution to the global efforts to improve the knowledge base for addressing climate change, and to strengthening basic climate research. This was followed up in Norway’s 2013 budget, in which the Government proposed an increase of NOK 47 million in allocations to climate research.

Basic knowledge about the climate system is the foundation for research on the impacts of climate change, which in turn provides the basis for research on risk management and adaptation. Climate change adaptation is dependent on projections for variables such as temperature, precipitation, wind, flooding, sea level, ocean currents, wave height and sea ice in different areas and regions. A number of key research goals are therefore related to improving understanding of the climate system. They include targeted work to develop downscaling methodology for climate models and the development of seasonal forecasts and decadal-scale scenarios. More specialised climate services are also needed for planning purposes, and basic climate research should be used to support the development of such services.

Textbox 5.1 Climate models and downscaling climate projections

Climate models are used as a basis for assessing how the climate will change towards the end of this century. They are the starting point for specific estimates – for example of how much the summer temperature will rise in Tromsø by 2050, or how much more rain and snow Bergen must expect in winter by the end of the century. But there is a considerable element of uncertainty in such projections, and the level of uncertainty increases when projections are made for smaller geographical areas. It is easier to make reliable global or regional projections of climate change than to make them for a single municipality. The climate models are therefore being further developed in order to reduce the uncertainty of projections with better spatial resolution, so that they are more suitable for practical use by municipalities.

Recent research has helped to improve forecasting of extreme weather in the Arctic. New research also indicates that it should be possible to develop seasonal and decadal forecasts. If this is successful, it will have major implications for society’s adaptive capacity. Such forecasts would provide industries such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries, shipping and construction with valuable additional information as a basis for their decisions. Continuing targeted research on the climate system will therefore have major benefits for society. Links between oceans/ice, the atmosphere and land surface, and the exchange of energy and water vapour are a fundamental part of this research. Changes in the climate system near the poles play a key role in global change. Studies of the Arctic and Antarctic climate will provide information that is of great value for understanding global climate change and developing adaptation strategies. Studies of the climate in the polar regions are also of interest in the context of short-lived climate forcers, which are particles and gases including black carbon (soot particles), ozone, methane and some HFCs. They have rapid effects on the climate system, the precise impacts varying from one type of climate forcer to another. They also have other negative environmental impacts and adverse effects on people’s health. Much more knowledge is needed to identify the best ways of reducing emissions of these substances and to understand their impacts on climate change and their implications for health and environmental policy.

Changes in carbon stocks on land and in the oceans and marine ecosystems are of great significance for climate change. Knowledge about the natural carbon cycle is therefore needed to predict more precisely how the climate will change during the present century. Measures to enhance carbon uptake by natural sinks and to alter the heat balance of the Earth have attracted growing attention in recent years as possible instruments for addressing climate change. Such measures are controversial because it is difficult to assess their impacts and verify whether they function as intended, and because they will generally only have short-term effects. Nevertheless it is important to obtain more knowledge in this field. A better understanding of the climate system is essential for developing measures of this kind.

New climate programme under the Research Council of Norway

The NORKLIMA programme is the Research Council’s main climate research initiative and one of its seven large-scale programmes. It is a 10-year programme due to be completed in 2013, and the Research Council is setting up a new major climate research initiative.

The new research programme that is being established will also be a large-scale programme. Large-scale programmes are the Research Council’s flagship programmes for key research areas. They have clear social and scientific objectives and a broad scope, promote the internationalisation of research, have substantial annual budgets, and are financed by several ministries.

Future Norwegian climate research should strengthen the interdisciplinary aspect of research. There must be a closer focus on the links between research questions in different areas, both within climate research and between climate research and related areas. For example, there is a pressing need for closer links between climate and energy research and climate and environmental research. Achieving this will require dialogue, cooperation and the involvement of both researchers and users in planning and carrying out research.

A national climate research programme is a good platform for enhancing Norwegian participation in international research cooperation, such as the EU framework research programmes and the European Joint Programming Initiative JPI Climate.

Textbox 5.2 JPI Oceans

JPI Oceans is a joint European research programme established on Norway’s initiative. Its purpose is to coordinate and enhance research on the most important issues in European seas and oceans. Climate change adaptation will be a key topic in this programme too.

Climate change is making the development process more difficult, because exposure and vulnerability to environmental and climate change are particularly high in many poor countries. A concerted global effort to enhance knowledge about the climate is needed. Norway has a responsibility here, and an international evaluation concluded that Norwegian climate research is of a very high standard. This puts Norway in a particularly good position to contribute to the development of knowledge about the climate system for the international community.

Textbox 5.3 The European Climate Adaptation Platform

The web-based European Climate Adaptation Platform CLIMATE-ADAPT was launched in March 2012. It is an initiative of the European Commission and helps users to access and share information on:

  • Expected climate change in Europe

  • Current and future vulnerability of regions and sectors

  • National and transnational adaptation strategies

  • Adaptation case studies and potential adaptation options

  • Tools that support adaptation planning

Climate monitoring

Monitoring is essential to reveal changes in climate variables such as precipitation and wind. Extreme precipitation events have been identified as one of the main climate-related threats in Norway. It is to be expected that wind direction and wind strength will be affected by climate change. Since both precipitation and changes in wind patterns can have major impacts, it is important to monitor the situation closely in order to detect any trends. To ensure that sufficient data is available for modelling short-term precipitation, measurements from a large number of sites in all regions of the country are needed, since extreme weather events are generally local in character. Sound wind and precipitation data are also needed as a basis for improving forecasting of extreme weather events in the future and preventing loss of life and material assets.

Climate monitoring will be important for many sectors to detect changes and gain an overview of the impacts of climate change. Because natural hazards such as storms, flooding, landslides and avalanches can have such serious impacts, more knowledge is needed about how climate change will affect the probability of such events. For example, we need to know more about how the risk of landslides and avalanches will change. Climate monitoring programmes are often linked to research projects or the management tasks of public authorities in various sectors. For instance, the fisheries management authorities need good time series of observations so that they can identify changes that need to be taken into consideration. To provide the authorities with a complete overview of the impacts of climate change on the natural environment and key sectors, monitoring activities must be coordinated. It may also be necessary to collate and coordinate results and analyses as a basis for policy development and the development of specific adaptation measures across sectors.

5.2 Tailored knowledge about the future climate

Climate change is creating a need for a generally available service to provide information on the current and future climate and play a part in translating climate science into practical adaptation work. People who are involved in municipal land-use planning need to know how the probability of flooding will change in flood-prone areas. Farmers need to know what changes to expect in the growing season and rainfall patterns. Those who are responsible for drinking water supplies need information on changes in water temperature and runoff to reservoirs. And people who make economic analyses of public and private investments need information on how climate change will affect the structure and profitability of investments. It is much easier to take climate change into account if we have a sound knowledge of today’s climate and know more about what to expect in the future.

Regional climate models are already available, and there are projections that quantify expected changes in temperature and precipitation. The projections are based on climate models and are available in map form and in reports. However, the resolution of the maps is too low for use in practical planning, and will not meet the specific mapping and planning needs of actors in various sectors. Some enterprises and municipalities have obtained data that are better tailored to their needs, for instance through participation in research projects.

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute is the Norwegian institution responsible for monitoring the atmospheric climate and for providing information to the public on how variables such as precipitation and temperature are expected to change. The Institute of Marine Research has similar responsibilities for the marine climate, from the open sea to coastal waters and the fjords. The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate has national responsibility for hydrological and cryosphere monitoring. All three institutions provide projections and information on various climate variables to municipalities, agencies and research institutions.

Data tailored for specific purposes, combined with information about today’s climate, has proved to be a good basis for assessments by companies and municipalities of how climate change will affect their activities in different areas. The report Adapting to a changing climate (NOU 2010: 10) highlights the need to improve dissemination of data on both today’s and the future climate. The Government agrees with this conclusion, and will step up the dissemination of relevant climate data as a basis for assessing the impacts of climate change in various fields. The municipalities have a particular need for this kind of information.

The term «climate services» is used to mean the delivery of climate information to different users. This is a high-priority field internationally. It is high on the agenda of the EU’s framework research programmes, and research on climate services is one of the main activities of the new joint programming initiative JPI Climate. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has for a number of years been focusing on capacity building and international assistance to enable developing countries to build up climate services. Norway has played a key role in this vital international work.

According to the WMO, climate services include a wide range of activities intended to generate and make available information on the historical, current and future climate and its impacts on human and natural systems. Climate services also include information and support that can help users to choose the right product for the decisions they need to make and explain the uncertainty associated with the information provided.

In Norway, cooperation on the development of a national centre for climate services was established in 2001, involving the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, in Bergen. The Bjerknes Centre has Norway’s leading expertise on climate modelling and has provided important input to the IPCC’s work. The Meteorological Institute has overall responsibility for the centre for climate services. The Water Resources and Energy Directorate is Norway’s national centre of expertise for hydrology, and monitors hydrological changes, including flooding.

One important reason for establishing a centre for climate services is to provide support for work on climate change adaptation by the municipalities and sectoral authorities. The national centre for climate services is also one of the specific measures recommended by the committee in the report Adapting to a changing climate. The framework for the new centre must enable it to provide practical support and make it easier for the municipalities to carry out the necessary impact assessments and climate change adaptation measures.

Norway’s centre for climate services should be developed in a way that enables those who are responsible for risk assessment and for adapting their activities to climate change to carry out their work as effectively as possible and with clear targets.

The centre will:

  • make available and coordinate climate and hydrological data and other information that is currently held by many different central government agencies;

  • improve dissemination of climate data and hydrological projections for use by the public administration, especially at municipal level;

  • analyse how the consequences of climate change will vary from one part of Norway to another, as a basis for the development of climate indexes and climate zones for use in practical climate change adaptation, see Chapter 8.5 on infrastructure and the 2012 white paper on building policy (Gode bygg for eit betre samfunn Meld. St. 28 (2011–2012), in Norwegian only);

  • share its expertise on climate change through advice and courses held in cooperation with other authorities.

The centre will be developed in close dialogue with its users. A pilot project in Troms county, also involving the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning, is currently developing and evaluating products that municipalities can use to incorporate climate change into their planning activities. Information technology plays an essential role in climate research. Basic climate research, including modelling of the climate system, requires high-performance computing resources. The use and development of ICT tools and products will be a key task for the centre.

Textbox 5.4 Short-term precipitation monitoring and forecasting

In recent years, there has been a growing demand for short-term precipitation data. To meet this need, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute has intensified monitoring and analysis of precipitation intensity. Activities have included improving forecasting models, more extensive use of weather radar, more real-time measurement of precipitation intensity and stepping up the research effort.

Precipitation was measured at least once an hour at 50 stations in 2005, increasing to 170 stations in 2012. Many weather stations have been established and are operated in cooperation with for example municipalities. Most of these transfer data directly to the Meteorological Institute, which carries out quality control and makes the data available on its websites. The municipalities either receive the data automatically or download measurements and statistics (intensity-duration-frequency (IDF) values) from the websites. In the course of 2013, about 100 of the Meteorological Institute’s automatic stations will be upgraded to register precipitation every 10 minutes.

Information on the extent and intensity of areas of precipitation for large parts of Norway can also be obtained from the weather radar network. There are now nine weather radars in operation: the two newest are in Hurum, south of Oslo (2010), and Berlevåg in Finnmark (2012). A new weather radar at Sømna in Nordland will come into operation in 2014. The newest weather radars provide better estimates of precipitation intensity and can distinguish between snow and rain. Work is in progress to improve the quality of radar data on precipitation and to combine radar data with actual land-based measurements of precipitation.

The national centre for climate services will provide a better basis for practical work on climate change adaptation. Climate projections for Norway need to be updated regularly as new results become available from the global climate models.

The expertise developed by the centre for climate services will also be relevant in other contexts, for example as a basis for integrating climate considerations more fully as an element of development policy.

Other sources of relevant information

Many other research institutes, universities and directorates also have relevant expertise and provide information on how the projected climate change will affect Norway. They include the Climate and Pollution Agency, the Public Roads Administration, the Institute of Marine Research, the Norwegian Polar Institute, the National Rail Administration, the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research, the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute, and Cicero (Center for International Climate and Environmental Research). Information is already being shared with others to some extent. A great deal of information is collected together on the website Klimatilpasning.no, which is part of the Norwegian Government portal. The website provides targeted information from a wide range of institutions with relevant expertise. Up till now, it has been run by the national secretariat for climate change adaptation in the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning.

The Climate and Pollution Agency is Norway’s national focal point for the IPCC, and is responsible for coordinating all processes relating to the IPCC’s work and for providing information on the results. The IPCC assesses scientific information on the climate system and ways of mitigating climate change and adapting society to both gradual climate change and extreme weather events. The Climate and Pollution Agency is therefore in a good position to assisting in the development of the Norwegian knowledge base for climate change adaptation.

The Climate and Pollution Agency is responsible for performance monitoring of Norway’s work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for international reporting. The Agency is also responsible for ensuring climate change adaptation in the sectors for which it is responsible, for example water supply and sewerage and landfills. This puts the Agency in a good position to consider the links between mitigation and adaptation. The Climate and Pollution Agency is also responsible for assessing whether climate change affects other pollution and environmental pressures, and must adjust regulation in other sectors to avoid negative effects.

The national centre for climate services must be developed in close cooperation with relevant authorities. It should also be considered whether more agencies and research institutes should be linked to the centre, in addition to those that are already cooperating on its development at present.

5.3 Maps and spatial information

Planners and politicians need information on the characteristics of different areas and their value to society in order to assess risk and ensure sound planning. Good maps that provide precise geographical information are therefore an essential basis for assessing the risk posed by climate change in different sectors.

Information is needed in many different areas, for example on buildings and other infrastructure, land use, river systems, sea level and topography.

Norway has good general map data in many fields, particularly for areas that are being developed, and where the data is kept up to date through co-financing. Nevertheless, more continuous and precise mapping is needed to provide a satisfactory basis for risk and vulnerability analyses and for mapping flood, landslide and avalanche risk. There will also be a growing need for better information for general and emergency planning, and it is important to be able to collate information from different sources quickly and effectively.

Sea level monitoring

Monitoring sea level is an international task. The Norwegian Mapping Authority is the competent authority in Norway. The monitoring system includes measurements from tidal gauges along the entire coast and a number of geodetic monitoring programmes. Now that the Mapping Authority’s geodetic observatory at Ny-Ålesund has been modernised, Norway is making a substantial contribution to international cooperation on sea level monitoring.

Measuring actual changes in sea level involves considerable scientific and technological challenges. Very precise and reliable measurements are needed to make comparisons possible over long distances all round the world. Modelling future changes in sea level at regional level is a very complex process, since these changes are strongly influenced by the earth’s gravitational field and its variations. In addition, postglacial rebound means that sections of the Scandinavian coastline are still rising. The Norwegian Mapping Authority has therefore attached special importance to strengthening its geodetic expertise, and will continue this process so that it can provide the necessary support for Norwegian and international climate research.

Detailed topographical data

There is a pressing need for better maps as a basis for statutory risk and vulnerability assessments in municipal planning processes. Topographical variations that are not revealed by smaller scale maps may be very important for planning in some areas, for example where smaller streams pose a high flooding risk or may do in the future.

In a 2012 white paper on the risk of flooding, landslides and avalanches (Meld. St. 15 (2011–2012), the Government gave an account of efforts to prevent loss of life and damage to property. Assessing and mapping flood, landslide and avalanche hazard and risk requires a great deal of information and high-quality underlying data. For analyses relating to flooding, landslides and avalanches, it is particularly important to have detailed topographic data that can be used as a basis for analyses of the terrain and geological structures.

The most cost-effective way of obtaining topographical data is by airborne laser scanning. So far, a total area of about 100 000 km2 has been scanned at different levels of detail in Norway. Central government agencies and municipalities are cooperating on this work by organising local projects within a framework called Geovekst.

Data on the power grid and other infrastructure

Climate change will make installations that are exposed to wind, flooding, landslides and avalanches more vulnerable. This includes lines and cables that are part of the electricity and ICT infrastructure. Some types of cables can be laid underground to give protection against wind and weather, and it is likely that this solution will be more widely used in the future. Underground cables are protected, and will generally have a longer lifetime. The disadvantages are the limited space when many different actors need to use the same area for their installations, and that maintenance is more difficult and more expensive. There are several other considerations to take into account for electricity infrastructure, including costs and how long it takes to make repairs. As a general rule, underground cabling will be used more for electricity transmission at lower voltages (grid voltage up to 22 kV), while a more restrictive practice will be followed for high-voltage lines.

Society is so dependent on underground infrastructure that requirements for easy access for maintenance and upgrading are becoming increasingly strict. The requirements for security of supply and reliability, combined with the fact that Norway has a large number of grid owners who have to communicate with different municipal, county and central government owners of roads, makes the situation very complicated.

Knowing what has been installed underground and precisely where is essential for effective cooperation. A notification system has been established requiring information to be reported before any excavation starts. Information on the location of electricity infrastructure is often confidential, so that it is not marked on public maps, but the information is available to anyone who has a professional need for it. A lack of awareness in this area results in unnecessary damage during excavation, lengthens the process and makes it difficult for actors to cooperate. The Ministry of the Environment, together with a number of industry organisations, has established a cooperation forum to gain an overview and assess how problems can be solved. The Government wishes to continue this cooperation with a view to improving coordination.

Textbox 5.5 Climate change and adaptation needs: power and ICT infrastructure

  • Closer focus on climate change adaptation, accessibility, reliability, civil protection, emergency planning and vulnerability.

  • More infrastructure needs to be laid underground: involves more use of undeveloped areas, costs of maintaining and moving cables are high.

  • Public authorities and private actors are becoming more and more dependent on each other.

  • Closer coordination and better cooperation between national authorities is needed.

  • Better rules on cables and other infrastructure are needed (requirements to register infrastructure, documentation, standardised surveying methods, management and exchange of data).

  • Poor coordination creates unnecessary conflicts between public road authorities, road owners and actors responsible for cables, etc in connection with excavation.

Cooperation on the establishment and management of spatial information

Geographical information and geographical information systems (GIS) are intended to cover the needs of a wide range of sectors. Precise geographical information is essential for assessing climate-related risks and the effects of risk-reduction measures. Information on vegetation cover, soils, geophysical conditions, sea level, tides and postglacial rebound in needed to document trends and changes resulting from natural geophysical processes and from climate change. The Norwegian Mapping Authority is responsible for climate change adaptation within its own sphere of responsibility, and contributes to the work of other sectors. Up-to-date and easily accessible map data and spatial information are needed for land-use management, forestry and agriculture, transport and communications and risk and vulnerability analyses, for use both as management and analytical tools and as tools for documenting change. Detailed geographical information, together with downscaled climate projections, will provide a better basis for climate change adaptation in a number of sectors.

Norway’s 2012 Spatial Data Act requires central government authorities and municipalities to share spatial data and make it available in electronic form. In the long term, this will provide a better overview and access to basic data and thematic data that the public administration needs for land-use planning, nature management, risk and vulnerability analyses, climate change adaptation and other purposes.

The Norwegian Mapping Authority is coordinating cooperation on an infrastructure for spatial information both at central government and at county level. The Authority has established a secretariat for this purpose. A coordination committee has been set up in each county including representatives of each of the parties, and these will give advice on priorities for mapping projects and draw up spatial data plans.

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