Risk governance of climate-related systemic risk in the Arctic - ARCT-RISK

Risk governance of climate-related systemic risk in the Arctic - ARCT-RISK

Understanding and adapting to climate change is one of the greatest ongoing societal challenges. The primary objective of ARCT-RISK is to develop knowledge and tools to make sense of and deal with effects of climate change on society’s ability to protect the life and health of its citizens and to maintain critical infrastructure and function.

The starting point of the project is the key role the Arctic plays in understanding and mitigating the challenge of climate adaptation, as the climate already is changing more rapidly in these regions than anywhere else in the world. 

This means successful risk governance strategies developed in response to destabilized climate conditions in Arctic locations serves as important experiences for future climate change adaptation in mainland Norway and other relevant parts of the world. 

Longyearbyen, Svalbard will be used as a "living lab" to study and develop approaches to risk governance that will reduce systemic risks (i.e. risks related to a combination of climate change, natural hazards and rippling effects on citizens, infrastructure and societal functions). 

To achieve the project's objectives a transdisciplinary approach involving perspectives from technology, safety science, natural science and social science is applied. The project team consist of experts from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the University Centre in Svalbard, NTNU Samfunnsforskning, SINTEF and the University of Stavanger

The research group will collaborate closely with local stakeholders in Longyearbyen to achieve to objectives of the project: Longyearbyen Local Government, the Governor of Svalbard, Telenor Svalbard AS, Nordkapp municipality, Skred AS, The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate and the Arctic Safety Centre at the University Centre in Svalbard.


Projects deliverables

Projects deliverables

Antonsen, S, Haavik, T., Kruke, B.I. og Johannessen, S. (2022) “Living near natural hazards in the age of climate change – the relationship between expert and local knowledge in risk governance” I Proceedings of the 32nd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2022) 
Øien,K, ´Hancock, H,  Indreiten, M og Albrechtsen, E. (2022) “Evaluation of a Local Avalanche Forecasting System in Svalbard” I Proceedings of the 32nd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2022)
Johannessen, S.A. (2022) “Potential Time Related Impacts of Turn-Over on Knowledge Continuity as Risk Perception in Longyearbyen, Svalbard” I Proceedings of the 32nd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2022)

  • Indreiten, M & Albrechtsen, E. (2021) “Handling uncertainty - a way to improve risk management in local avalanche warning systems”. Paper presented at the Arctic Safety Conference in Longyearbyen, Norway, 09-11 November 2021
  • Keng He, M. & Albrechtsen, E. (2021) “Uncertainty in risk-informed decision-making processes in snow avalanche risk management in the Arctic”. Paper presented at the Arctic Safety Conference in Longyearbyen, Norway, 09-11 November 2021
  • Øien, K. (2021) “Resilience-based monitoring of climate adaptation”  Paper presented at the Arctic Safety Conference in Longyearbyen, Norway, 09-11 November 2021
  • Wickström, S. (2022), “Air Temperature and Precipitation Trends in Svalbard Affected by Sea Ice Decline and Changes in Atmospheric Circulation”. Presentation at Arctic Climate and Weather Extremes: Detection, Attribution, and Future Projection, Aspen, Colorada (US), 15-20 May 2022
  • Jonassen, M, (2022)  “Rain‐on‐snow - events in Svalbard, climatology and trends”  
  • Presentation at Arctic Climate and Weather Extremes: Detection, Attribution, and Future Projection, Aspen, Colorada (US), 15-20 May 2022
  • Wickström, S, Jonassen, M. Hancock, H, Johannesen, S, Albrechtsen, E (2022) «Meteorological drivers of snow avalanche hazards in Longyearbyen’s current and future climate” Presentert på 32nd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2022), 28.aug-1.sept 2022, Dublin, Irland

Work packages

Work packages

The WP1 answers to RQ1 using a novel approach to understand climate-related systemic risks in a transdisciplinary perspective including natural scientific experts in climate change and natural hazards, risk researchers, and social scientific experts in understanding the effects of natural hazards on critical infrastructure and societal functions. 

  • Task 1.1: Review and synthesis of existing research on the governance of systemic climate-related risk.
  • Task 1.2:  Overview of ongoing and future climate change in Longyearbyen and the associated effects on natural hazards and potential incidents in Longyearbyen, including an overview of incidents in which climate change has been a contributing factor
  • Task 1.3: Transdisciplinary identification and assessment of short- and long-term effects of climate change on societal safety in Longyearbyen. 

The WP2 will be a transdisciplinary approach combining geophysical science and safety science with the aim of establishing a set of risk indicators that measure the impacts of climate change on societal safety in Longyearbyen.

  • Task 2.1: Establish the foundation for developing the risk indicators (needs for decision-support; current data and knowledge; risk model) 
  • Task 2.2: Develop and test risk indicators, including analysis of uncertainty and dynamics related to climate change’s impact on societal safety 
  • Task 2.3: Develop guidelines for data collection, interpretation and decision support 

The WP3 aims to answer studies on how data from technical sensors; climate change data; aggregated expert knowledge; and tacit knowledge of local observers and other stakeholders can be combined to improved sense-making and decision making to control climate-related systemic risk. The WP will be focused on snow avalanche risk.

  • Task 3.1: Evaluation of a current avalanche monitoring system for dynamic risk assessment and decision-making. 
  • Task 3.2: Combining explicit knowledge (scientific knowledge, collected monitoring data) and tacit knowledge (local observations by the public and experts) in decision-making processes.
  • Task 3.3: Development and testing of an improved concept for dynamic assessment and management of avalanche risk, including digitalization of data collection and analysis. 

The WP4 will study the process from turning data from specific risks into risk-reducing actions (WP1-3) and the balancing between short-term measures and potential long-term challenges. Due to the uncertainties associated with climate change, there is a possibility that short-term solutions may cause long-term problems or at least that the assumption underlying risk-reducing measures need to be continuously reassessed. 

  • Task 4.1: Analysis of the mechanisms for reassessment of the assumptions underlying implemented adaptation measures in Longyearbyen (e.g. physical barriers, relocation, evacuation plans) to prevent short-term measures posing long-term challenges 
  • Task 4.2: Studies of discourse-based approaches to risk governance, in particular how risk communication can be improved in the interaction between experts and the Longyearbyen community 
  • Task 4.3: Study and suggest improvement in strategies for development of long-term community resilience 

The WP4 will answer RQ7 by evaluating the transferability of the knowledge and tools developed in WP1-4 to other places in the world and to different types of natural hazards. WP5 will also assess innovation potentials for activities in Longyearbyen will be addressed, in particular related to management systems based on monitoring of risk with sensor technology and potentials for digitalization. 

Research team, collaboration partners and scientific excellence group

Research team, collaboration partners and scientific excellence group

  • Eirik Albrechtsen (NTNU/UNIS): Project manager of ARCT-RISK. Professor in safety management from the Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and adjunct professor (professor II) at the Arctic Safety Centre at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).
  • Marius Jonassen (UNIS): Associate professor in meteorology from University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).
  • Bjørn Ivar Kruke (UiS/UNIS): Professor in emergency preparedness from the Department of Safety, Economics and Planning at the University of Stavanger (UiS) and adjunct professor (professor II) at the Arctic Safety Centre at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).
  • Stian Antonsen  (NTNU Social research): Senior researcher at Studio Apertura, NTNU Social research. 
  • Knut Øien (SINTEF): Senior research scientist from SINTEF Digital. 
  • Torgeir Haavik (NTNU): Senior researcher at Studio Apertura, NTNU Social research. 
  • Siiri Wickström( UNIS): Postdoc at the Arctic Safety Centre at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).
  • Holt Hancock (UNIS): Researcher at the Arctic Safety Centre at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS)
  • Stig Johanessen(UNIS): PhD student at the Arctic Safety Centre at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).
  • Martin Indreiten (UNIS): Operational manager at the Arctic Safety Center, UNIS.
  • Longyearbyen Local Government
  • The Governor of Svalbard
  • Telenor Svalbard AS
  • Skred AS
  • The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), Region North 
  • Nordkapp municipality
  • Arctic Safety Centre at UNIS
  • Professor Ortwin Renn: Scientific director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany. 
  • Dr. Michael Bründl: Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research. 
  • Ivan Depina: SINTEF Community and the University of Split, Croatia. 

More about ArctRisk

More about ArctRisk

The climate is changing more rapidly in the Arctic regions than anywhere else in the world. The report Climate in Svalbard 2100 by the Norwegian Centre for Climate Services (NCCS) shows that ongoing and projected climate changes at Svalbard are, among others, increased annual air temperature, increased annual precipitation, more frequent and intense events with heavy rainfall, increased river flow and higher frequency of many types of avalanches and landslides. 

The starting point of the ArctRisk project are these ongoing climatic changes and their effects on natural hazards in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard located at 78 degrees North. The climate change and its effect on natural hazards have rippling effects on society (infrastructure, functions and the population). The interaction between climate change, natural hazards and society represents systemic risks. A systematic and dynamic approach to handling these systemic risks is required to maintain critical social functions and critical infrastructure and to protect the life and health of the citizens. Risk governance is a well-suited approach for this purpose to ensure a knowledge-based process for decision-making and implementation of risk reducing adaptation measures and facilitation of societal resilience abilities.

Climate adaption. Illustration

The International Risk Governance Council’s (IRGC) framework for risk governance offers guidance for the identification and handling of risks, involving multiple stakeholders. It is a framework well-suited for handling uncertainty, dynamics and stakeholder involvement associated with the climate change risk picture described above. The approach is particularly relevant for handling systemic risks as the framework guides the identification and handling of system interconnectivity including rippling effects, extreme events, unwanted side effects and societal interpretations. 

In ArctRisk we define 6 elements in risk governance:

  1. Framing processes that address and screen current knowledge about the phenomenon to be handled
  2. Sensing systems able to collect data and generate real-time and long-term information about risk 
  3. Sensemaking processes where the sometimes ambiguous cues from the sensing systems are extracted, interpreted and translated into meaningful alternatives for action  
  4. Decision-making, where conflicting alternatives are considered against sometimes inconsistent goals and values and matched with formal requirements and expectations
  5. Risk treatment, where changes in the form of various risk-reducing or mitigating measures are made.
  6. Risk communication, stakeholder involvement and collaboration among involved parties throughout the governance process.

A separation between short-term and long-term effects and measures is made in the ArctRisk-project:

  • Climate disaster handling (short term perspective and acute situations), i.e. preparation and coping with adverse conditions in short and medium terms. For example evacuation due to high probability of snow avalanches.
  • Climate adaptation (long term perspective), i.e. processes of adjustment to actual climate changes and its effects on society.

The overall project objective is to develop knowledge and tools to make sense of and adapt to the effects of climate change on society’s ability to protect the life and health of its citizens and to maintain critical infrastructure and functions. 

The project objective will be achieved by answering the following research questions (RQ): 

  • RQ1: What characterize climate-related systemic risks in an Arctic society?
  • RQ2: How can risk informed decision-making be improved by using climate change data to express indicators of risk?
  • RQ3: What are the uncertainties associated with climate-related systemic risks in the Arctic and how can they be assessed and managed through all steps of risk governance?
  • RQ4: How can data from technical sensors, climate change data, aggregated expert knowledge, and the tacit knowledge of local observers and other stakeholders be combined to improved sense-making and decision making to control natural hazards?
  • RQ5: How and why should local stakeholders be involved in data collection, sense-making and decision-making for improved climate change adaptation?
  • RQ6: What are effective climate change adaptation strategies in a long-term perspective? How can transdisciplinary and real-time knowledge generation contribute to these strategies?
  • RQ7: How can experiences from climate change adaptation in an Arctic settlement contribute to climate adaptation in communities which have not yet experienced the full effects of climate change?
  • Knowledge need I: Identification of climate-related systemic risk

    To make sense of the effects of climate changes on societal safety in an Arctic society it is required to understand how climate changes influence natural hazards and the ripple effects of changes in climate and natural hazards on critical infrastructures; important societal functions; industrial activities and the population.
     
  • Knowledge need II: Identification, assessment, and management of uncertainty

    The speed and extent of climate changes in Longyearbyen implies that historical and current knowledge about natural hazards and their effects on society quickly becomes out of date. This implies that the potentials for prediction of climate-related effects on societal safety is changed dramatically. There is a need for more knowledge related to the uncertainty dimension of risk related to sense-making, decision-making and risk-reducing measures. 
     
  • Knowledge need III: Risk governance of systemic climate-related risk 

    The existing research literature on risk management on avalanche risk indicate that there is a need for more research on: 1) sense-making and decision-making processes based on quantitative data; 2) risk assessment that involves qualitative assessments and utilization of tacit knowledge among local observers/experts; 3) involvement of local stakeholders in both data collection, sense-making and decision-making; 4) identification and handling of uncertainty, including the communication; and 5) real-time monitoring of hazards to support decisions. 
     
  • Knowledge need IV: Societal resilience and climate adaptation:

    A knowledge need exists to integrate knowledge about the bottom-up descriptions of community resilience toward natural hazards with the top-down approaches to climate risk governance. As natural hazards are rooted in geography, the perceptions, tacit knowledge and capabilities of local communities need to be understood, addressed and utilized in risk communication and crisis response.  

Case description: Climate change in Longyearbyen

Case description: Climate change in Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen, the administrative center of the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard located at 78 degrees North, is a “case of” Arctic environments able to provide early warning signs regarding the speed and effects of climate change, a harsh environment which places specific demands on equipment and technology, a local community living in close proximity to natural hazards, and an isolated location where preparedness will need to be based on citizen involvement. 

The impact of climate change in Svalbard, e.g due to increased temperature and precipitation, is representative of the possible impact societies further south will face in the years to come. Furthermore, the Longyearbyen society is in many respects a miniature version of Norwegian society. Its remote location means that it must include the necessary public, private and social functions needed for a society to work. Longyearbyen is thus a unique “living lab” for understanding climate change and for experimenting with technological, organizational and societal solutions for climate change adaptation.

Climate change in Svalbard and Longyearbyen

The observed warming in the Arctic is more than twice the global mean. Svalbard and Longyearbyen are located in an area where this warming is the strongest. Reports show both experienced changes from 1971-2000 and projected changes for 2071-2100 for Svalbard include increased air temperature, increased annual precipitation, more frequent and intense events with heavy rainfall, increased river flow, destabilization of near-surface permafrost, changes in glacier area and mass, increased frequency for many types of floods; and increased frequency for many types of avalanches and landslides. As a result of the ongoing and future climate changes in Longyearbyen, the Norwegian Centre for Climate Services (NCCS) identifies an increased probability for snow avalanches, landslides, flooding and erosion with the potential to that impact infrastructure and functions in the Longyearbyen society. 

The inseparable relationship between nature, technology and society in the context of climate-related risks is epitomized by the term “envirotechnical disasters”. The argument is that sociotechnical systems cannot be seen independent or as isolated from nature. This perspective is of high relevance to climate change adaptation, both in the Arctic and elsewhere. E.g, both in 2015 and 2017 snow avalanches hit buildings in Longyearbyen, the 2015 avalanche even involved 2 fatalities.  In both snow avalanches, abnormal and extreme weather conditions were important contributors to the incidents (DSB, 2015; Landrø et al., 2017). 

Avalanche in Svalbard. Photo
Avalanche in Longyearbyen 2017. Photo: Martin Indreiten, Arctic Safety Center, UNIS

Photos from Longyearbyen

Photos from Longyearbyen


Photos from Svalbard

  • Autumn in Longyearbyen. Photo
    Photo: Martin Indreiten, Arctic Safety Center, UNIS
  • Technical equipment in Longyearbyen. Photo
    Photo: Martin Indreiten, Arctic Safety Center, UNIS
  • Mountain in Svalbard. Photo
    Photo: Martin Indreiten, Arctic Safety Center, UNIS
  • Longyearbyen in the polar night. Photo
    Photo: Martin Indreiten, Arctic Safety Center, UNIS
  • Longyearbyen in the winter. Photo
    Photo: Martin Indreiten, Arctic Safety Center, UNIS