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Norway kicks off Nordic countries’ multi-risk assessment  

In the fjord country, natural hazards were addressed at a workshop held in Tønsberg, in November 2022. In this MYRIAD-EU pilot region, recent heat waves, droughts, and wild fires were discussed to initiate a comprehensive disaster risk management framework and adaptation solutions.  

With their vast forests and surprising wildlife, it is hard to imagine that the Nordic countries are a high-risk region. However, heat waves, extreme rainfalls, and large fires are becoming more frequent due to climate change and global warming. These unusual extreme events have significant repercussions on the three key sectors of the local economy: energy, forestry, and agriculture. The implementation of a disaster risk management plan will provide responses and adaptation solutions, while reducing economic losses. 

The primary objective of the Scandinavian pilot workshop was to discern and prioritize the research questions, challenges, and opportunities relevant to the core stakeholders of the pilot study. Furthermore, the workshop aimed to obtain valuable feedback on the existing framework developed in MYRIAD-EU. The workshop accomplished these objectives by convening a group of five participants and conducting a series of presentations and discussions. 

Risky summers, winters too! 

The discussion on multi-risk assessment in the Nordic countries started with DSB in spring 2022 and continued at the Tønsberg’s workshop, with a special focus on compound events such as heat stress. To launch the pilot workshop, CICERO – one of the MYRIAD-EU partners-, presented the results of a master thesis research on compound events and nature-based solutions. Although this work referred to the summer period, winter would be interesting too “…there are winter heatwaves and winter drought which can lead to wildfires, even in winter!”, suggested Erling Kvernevik from the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB). 

In addition, the results presented highlighted the fact that “open areas are also prone to fire spread”. “Many wildfires happen in open areas, not necessarily forested areas. Forests are managed and therefore somewhat protected,” explained Erling Kvernevik from DSB. However, in terms of economics, the forested area gives the biggest losses. Insurance companies only look at forest insurance for example. Furthermore, it is important to remember that fire itself can be considered as a nature-based solution to manage the forest.” 

The assessment of the multi-hazard costs of heat stress – based on the example of 2018-, revealed several interesting aspects and consequences that were feeding the discussions among participants: 

  • Temperature associated with precipitation changes can have a strong impact on agricultural production.  
  • An increase (decrease) in precipitation has positive (negative) effects on agriculture, forestry, and electricity (mainly based on hydropower production). There are also cross-sectoral impacts associated with these changes.  

Recipe for an effective risk framework  

It is difficult to predict what summers and winters will be like from one year to the next. Therefore, the use of a macro-economic model such as GRACE (The GRACE Model) suggested in the discussions in order to provide an overview of direct and indirect impacts for different sectors and to better estimate how much damage can be avoided and how much it will cost. Moreover, the DAPP (Dynamic Adaptative Policy Pathways) was proposed as a tool to identify the most effective and efficient adaptation alternatives and scenarios. The participants’ exchanges revealed the importance of local governance in enabling decision-makers, practitioners, and city representatives to have a clear definition of the policies to be implemented, who finances them, and what are the roles and responsibilities for risk assessment.  

“There is a planning system in Norway which takes the hazards into consideration, but with increasing emissions this would become more and more difficult as standards are raised, noted Erling Kvernevik from DSB. The response to risk disaster must be more and more taken into account, and it is very important to consider mitigation, adaptation, and disaster response options together.” 

In the long-term scale framework, gaining knowledge and readiness to risk disasters enables local decision-makers to proactively develop policies and strategies that can mitigate and adapt to the impact of potential disasters in Norway. It also ensures the efficient allocation of resources and improves the country’s resilience to potential damage caused by natural disasters. 

Next steps towards a replicated framework  

The workshop was a first step towards further discussions and work to establish a robust and replicable multi-risk framework. This work should involve sister organisations from Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. Regional workshops could also be organised to investigate the multi-hazards interactions on seasonal to multi-decadal scales and their impacts in order to address these challenges on a Nordic level. The participation at Naturfareforum, the main cooperation forum among Norwegian authorities, could be a good starting point.  

Stay tuned for the next Scandinavian pilot workshop to take place in June 2023.