29–31 August 2012 | Helsinki, Finland
Climate change is rarely out of the news nowadays, and almost everyone seems to have an opinion about it. The scientific evidence for ongoing anthropogenic climate change is overwhelming, and impacts of changes over recent decades are already apparent in the Nordic region, with reduced sea ice, lengthening growing seasons and altered river flows.
However, with global carbon dioxide emissions surging back to record levels in 2010, there now seems little prospect of meeting the internationally agreed target of limiting global mean warming to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial times by reducing emissions. Indeed, societies may have to prepare themselves for much more warming than that, as well as the many consequences that would result. While there are certainly situations in which impacts of warming may be judged beneficial, the effects in most parts of the world are expected to be overwhelmingly adverse. Moreover, some of the more damaging impacts may already be emerging through extreme weather events, such as record heatwaves, heavy precipitation and high winds, possible harbingers of greater climatic variability and unpredictability to come.
It is clear that effective adaptation will be essential for coping with inevitable climate change. But are societies sufficiently aware of and prepared for these accelerating and unprecedented changes? This is a central question being posed for participants at the Second Nordic International Conference on Climate Change Adaptation.
A meeting place for adaptation research and practice
The Conference seeks to identify common ground between adaptation research and adaptation decision-making by comparing experiences, reporting new insights and revealing key gaps in knowledge. Some of the other questions being asked include:
- Many countries have developed climate change adaptation strategies, but do decision-makers really have the appropriate information, expertise and tools available to them to implement adaptation decisions?
- What adaptation research is underway and where is information currently lacking?
- Is it more sensible to wait and see what happens, or to implement adaptation measures right away?
- How should adaptation policies be targeted – where are they needed most and who should be responsible for implementing them?
- Do the adaptation decisions of today need to be effective in 30 years time? In 100 years time?
- What is the cost of climate change to the environment and society, how do we measure that cost and who foots the bill?
In some respects, adaptation policy seems to be outpacing research, with strategies being designed and questions asked for which answers, or even methods of obtaining answers, are not yet available. On the other hand, research on some aspects of climate change adaptation has developed rapidly in recent years, and this new knowledge could be of great benefit in offering solutions for practical adaptation challenges. These are two persuasive reasons for wishing to bring adaptation decision-makers and researchers together in such a forum. A third reason is to promote an effective international and multi-disciplinary exchange of ideas on adaptation to climate change, drawing extra inspiration from the attractive Nordic setting and warm local hospitality.