Over the past five years, Nordic research on climate impacts and adaptation has advanced significantly. The research to date has been of a high standard and has followed international developments in research areas including analysis of vulnerability, the process of adaptation, as well as in policy development. Nordic strengths are found at all points of the knowledge triangle: innovation, research and education, but there is room for improvement to connect and gain synergy from these points, not only nationally but in the Nordic co-operation as a region.

By Michael Goodsite and the N-CMAEP partners


This positive advancement in research is required for Nordic welfare since “a country’s or region’s capacity to innovate is determined by its ability to generate and disseminate knowledge and by its ability to transform knowledge into new products, services and processes and thus into economic growth and welfare” (Sylvia Schwaag-Serger and Nannan Lundin p.59 in Ketels, 2010: Global Pressure – Nordic Solutions? The Nordic Globalization Barometer 2010 By Christian KetelsANP 2010:714© Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen 2010).

Nordic Energy Solutions cite the result of a Nordic study co-ordinated by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute as concluding that “If the Nordic countries were to co-ordinate their future energy, climate, and air pollution strategies it would provide significant benefits for the environment and community planning.”  (www.nordicenergysolutions.org, accessed 26 Sept. 2010). The conclusion requires co-ordination of future research and innovation strategies across several different areas, with what strategy to follow for each sector a non-trivial question. Sustainability per-se is not mentioned explicitly, but it should be added to the strategies that must be coordinated across the Nordic countries and primary sectors (see e.g. Bizikova et al., 2007).

A Nordic “Flagship” initiative, the Nordic Top Research Initiative (TFI) (www.toppforskningsinitiativet.org), and its associated programmes will likely help in the coordination of these, as well as facilitating at the Nordic regional level, what strategies exactly should be coordinated. With TFI funds, Nordic research and educational efforts in programmes with importance to global change and sustainability will be able to be pursued. The Nordic society will benefit in the short as well as long term from successful execution of these programmes as a TFI type initiative as a minimum, is a pre-requisite for efficient regional innovation.

Yet, even with the Nordic Energy Solution conclusion and given that “Climate security, low carbon energy and sustainable development is a stated strategic focal point for Nordic-China cooperation” (Ketels, 2010 p.73), the development of a comprehensive Nordic climate adaptation strategy has yet to be adequately addressed, let alone progressively applied to strategic co-operation with other regions or nations outside of the Nordic cooperation. Given the demonstrated need and the political agenda of the Nordic countries (addressing the global challenges of climate security has been a political agenda of the highest priority in Nordic co-operation since the Nordic prime ministers met in Punkaharju in 2007 (Ketels, 2010 p.73)) developing a comprehensive Nordic adaptation strategy must be addressed.

Developing the strategy requires enhanced focus on adaptation and effects of climate change at the Nordic regional level. Analysis of the process of adaptation has focused on institutions and decision-making (Naess et al. 2004, Naess et al 2006), social learning and social capital (Pelling et al. 2008; Storbjörk 2009; Tabara et al. 2009; Nilsson & Gerger Swartling 2009), and the link between adaptation and mitigation (Klein et al. 2007). Analysis of adaptation and mitigation in sectors such as energy and transport have focused on roles for Nordic and European countries in a world of not-yet global participation (Eskeland et al, 2010). So, although adaptation and mitigation are intricately linked, they are usually dealt with in separate policy domains. Researchers have increasingly argued for the convergence of these domains so as to avoid trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation. In the Nordic context the term “adaptigation” has been coined as an integrative approach to adaptation and mitigation, suggesting that the former separation of the two is becoming increasingly obsolete (Langlais 2009). However, there is still insufficient knowledge about the synergies between adaptation and mitigation, linked to researchers’ current inability to visualize and communicate to stakeholders the benefits of a complementary approach.

New visualization methods needed

Adapting and applying novel visualization techniques can greatly assist in analyzing and communicating scientific complexity and uncertainty (Neset et al. 2009). In a survey of ongoing climate visualization initiatives, Nocke et al. (2008) conclude that recent developments in interactive visualization using alternative visual metaphors are not widespread in the climate community. The studies demonstrate that there is a need for an interactive visualization platform for standard desktop computers, and for decision forums to facilitate analyses of interrelations within the societal sectors, i.e. a more user friendly and interactive tool than many numerical models, one not necessarily requiring consultant expertise for decision makers and their staff to use, one that helps the decision makers visualize and communicate to their stakeholders the benefits of a complementary approach.

The development of such a platform would enable individual users to create adaptation narratives for a specific set of geo-spatial, temporal and contextual data. The optimized platform will require tools to facilitate dialogue between experts, policymakers and stakeholders from the public as well as private sector to ensure that the gained knowledge on the synergetic effects of adaptation-mitigation linkages are considered in policy development processes.


To help address the above Nordic challenges, The Nordic Climate Mitigation, Adaptation and Economic Policies (N-CMAEP) Network, one of the ten NordForsk TFI Networks established under the program “Effect studies and adaptation to climate change” was created.

Its purpose is establishing an interdisciplinary strategic approach for addressing solutions to the changing climate by concretely addressing adaptation to climate change mitigation policies through a core transdisciplinary Network of Nordic researchers assembled to address three main research questions:

  1. What are the core societal, economic and environmental features to be taken into consideration when developing a regional Nordic strategy for climate adaptation?
  2. How does this couple with the natural science and engineering state of the art, with respect to climate mitigation?
  3. Which specific indicators can be developed for assessing climate adaptation strategies at a broader regional level?

The N-CMAEP researchers have expanded their idea into a virtual research centre and training programme concept: Nordic Strategic Adaptation Research (NORD-STAR). Each is arranged as “open” initiatives as far as resources allow, with any new partners that add value to the efforts welcome – the next annual meeting is planned in the fall of 2011 in Reykjavik, Iceland; those with further interest are welcome to contact Michael Goodsite. N-CMAEP and NORD-STAR recently accepted ProjectZero, Sønderborg (www.projectzero.dk) as a partner, given the urgent need to think urban adaptation and mitigation into regional strategies and are working to further partnership with ISSP. N-CMAEP is funded for three years, while partners are actively seeking support for the NORD-STAR concept.

Climate and energy will continue to have strategic importance for welfare and thus the research and innovation agenda in the Nordic countries and region. By partnering or at least coordinating initiatives such as N-CMAEP and NORD-STAR with initiatives such as the sustainability project of ISSP we can best help the Nordic region maintain the lead markets by focussing on added value creation to the Nordic knowledge triangle as it relates to global change.

Important events this fall in Stockholm

Those interested in the state of science for Nordic adaptation science, policy and practice are encouraged to attend The “Climate Adaptation in the Nordic Countries: Science, Practice, Policy” International conference in Stockholm, Sweden, 8-10 November 2010 (www.nordicadaptation2010.net) which is organised by another TFI Network (NORDCLAD-NET) (early bird registration ends September 30th). The purpose of the conference is to explore the links between adaptation science, practice, and policy. Taking an interdisciplinary perspective and involving stakeholders, the aim of the conference is to deliver insights for a socially relevant research agenda that advances the emerging science of adaptation and meets the needs of practitioners and policymakers.

An in depth PhD course which explores the ways science, policy and practitioners address adaptation to climate change in the Nordic countries will be held prior to the conference (www.milen.uio.no).

With these initiatives to include their associated events and schools – students, scientists, public and private stakeholders will have a baseline for further developing and improving an integrated strategy of innovation, research and education as it relates to Nordic adaptation.




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