Nov. 22, 2010 A new government report documents Norway's vulnerability to climate change and discusses adaptation measures. The committee behind the report emphasises that research must be a prioritised means of addressing climate challenges.
"The report validates the national Klima21 strategy approved earlier this year," says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council. "The new report supports the strategy's recommendations in terms of both research needs and the need for funding climate research."
Entitled "Adapting to a changing climate," the report deals with the full range of climate-related challenges facing society. The committee that prepared the report was headed by Oddvar Flæte, County Governor of Sogn og Fjordane County, and based its work on three climate projections which, together, provide a risk picture of potential impacts during this century:
- Annual average temperatures in Norway are projected to rise 2.3°C to 4.6°C. The largest increases will occur in wintertime and in Northern Norway, the smallest in summertime and in Western Norway.
- Annual precipitation is expected to increase by five to 30 per cent by the year 2100, but with large seasonal and regional variations. More days with heavy precipitation are also expected.
- Ocean temperatures will rise along the entire Norwegian coastline and in the North Sea. Ocean acidification will worsen, likely dropping in pH value by 0.5 units.
- By the year 2100, sea levels could rise 50-100 cm along Norway's southern and western coastlines, 40-90 cm in Northern Norway, and 20-70 cm in the Oslo Fjord and Trondheim Fjord.
The committee recommends that impacts and response measures be assessed on the basis of the projection(s) that pose the greatest challenges for the various sectors.
More research needed in many fields
The report states that the need for a regularly updated knowledge base is not adequately met through ordinary research programmes and projects of a relatively short-term nature. The committee therefore supports the Klima21 strategy's recommendation to establish large-scale, long-term research programmes that specifically address the climate system and the impacts of, and adaptation to, climate change. It also recommends that the Research Council establish a strategic research programme for the construction industry with a primary focus on the impacts of climate change on that industry.
Existing monitoring programmes must be shored up and new programmes must be developed, particularly relating to the natural environment and natural hazards. The committee also advises strengthening the monitoring of wind and short-term precipitation.
A focus on knowledge dissemination
The report gives high priority to the dissemination of research-based knowledge to the public administration and trade and industry. There is a great need for downscaled and specially prepared climate projections, and for data from monitoring, mapping and climate modelling in formats that are comprehensible to users in sectors and technical circles that do not possess expertise in meteorology or hydrology.
Social science perspectives missing Dr Hallén expressed disappointment over how little mention the committee made of social science research, which he says could provide valuable insight into how to implement the proposed measures.
"The committee recommends investing in databases, knowledge centres, mapping and monitoring -- all of which are necessary as a basis for sound planning. But social science research, which can provide answers for how to convert that knowledge into action, is forgotten along the way. How should the necessary adaptations be managed and funded?" asks Dr Hallén. "And how should society distribute the costs between those who are most at risk from climate change and those who personally will be spared the worst of the environmental problems?"
Impacts of global changes Dr Hallén would also welcome a stronger focus on the indirect impacts on Norway of the major climate change occurring in far more vulnerable places around the world. "Because Norway's economy is tightly integrated with the global economy, we need much more knowledge about how these global changes will affect our nation socially and economically."
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