Climate change calls for verified mitigation and adaptation measures

Public discourse about climate change intensified after the Paris Agreement was signed and after the IPCC published the report on limiting global warming to 1,5 degrees. The message on the need for mitigation became crystal clear: In order to stop and limit global warming, urgent cuts in emissions from greenhouse gases, especially CO2, are needed, and mitigation actions are required in all sectors: energy, transportation, land use, businesses, and the way people live their lives. In addition, we need technological developments to capture carbon from the atmosphere and sustainable carbon sinks.

Mitigation does not remove the need for adaptation

Whereas the need for mitigation has become clear, the need for adaptation is less prominent in public discourse. The urgency of adaptation measures increases dramatically, if we fail in climate change mitigation.

Temperatures have risen by over 1 degrees from the pre-industrial levels. In the Arctic areas, warming is faster than elsewhere in the world. According to the recent special report by IPCC, temperatures over land areas have risen by 1.4 degrees.

Climate change impacts our lives already now. According to the IPCC, the effects of climate change on ecosystems have been seen on all continents and in the oceans. Changes are observed on natural terrestrial ecosystems, permafrost and land degradation, desertification, and food security. The frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events has increased.

The warming caused by anthropogenic emissions from pre-industrial times until today will persist for centuries to millennia, and give rise to continuous long-term changes in the climatic systems.

For example, even if the targets set in the Paris agreement are met, the global sea level continues to rise for hundreds of years. Research indicate that we need to adapt to extreme weather events, crop losses, large forest and wildfires, damages in our infrastructures and health effects. Impacts of climate change need to be taken into account in urban planning and land use. The adverse impacts of climate change especially in the world outside of the Nordic countries will lead to increasing problems related to flooding, heat waves, and drought. The impacts on social and economic welfare are seen and they may result in larger numbers of refugees leading to increasing migration.

It is clear that adaptation measures are needed in all sectors of life.

Verifying the impact of mitigation activities

In meteorology and climatology, observations, measurements, verification and scientific methods are the basis for all research and service development.

Long term and reliable measurements are also the key to monitor how our climate changes over time and what is the impact of mitigation measures. For example, through satellite measurements it is possible to get information about the sources of CO2 emissions and changes in the arctic sea ice. Long and qualitative time series of meteorological parameters, such as air temperature, precipitation, snow depth etc, provide clear indicators of climate change.

Even though no action is too small to be left undone in climate change mitigation, verification helps us to understand how efficient the mitigation measures and political decisions are. The better information we have about the impacts of mitigation measures, the better we can plan the adaptation activities and focus on efforts which have the desired, measurable impact. Preventive mitigation investments are cheaper in the long run, than to take the costs of climate impacts in retrospect.

Understanding the Nordic characteristics of climate change

The Nordic and Baltic meteorological institutes work in close cooperation with each other and the international science community to better understand the complexities of the climate change and its impacts to our lives.

Our task is to conduct research about the special characteristics of the climate and its impacts in the Northern latitudes, so that our societies can build resilience and plan adaptation measures. We have begun a formal cooperation between Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Spain for the development of a common regional climate model, which will give us more accurate information of e.g. rain, flooding and draughts. The Nordic countries are also developing the first common climate scenarios at really high resolutions. Climate models and scenarios are key tools in understanding the future of our climate.

Climate change will change the conditions where we live today. Increasing attention is being given to hazards due to thinning of lake and river ice cover and permafrost degradation, including slope failure, which calls for increased in situ monitoring and the development of new remote sensing techniques.

The Nordic and Baltic meteorological institutes work every day to make sure that our citizens are warned and stay safe when facing extreme weather events – also in the changing climate.

Taimar Ala,
Director General, Estonian Environment Agency

Saulius Balys,
Director General, Lithuanian Hydrometeorological Service

Rolf Brennerfelt,
Director General, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute

Juhani Damski,
Director General, Finnish Meteorological Institute

Ingemars Harmsens,
Director General, Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre

Roar Skålin,
Director General, Norwegian Meteorological Institute

Árni Snorrason,
Director General, Icelandic Meteorological office

Marianne Thyrring,
Director General, Danish Meteorological Institute