The UN refers to climate change as our biggest challenge. It affects all sectors of society and reinforces the consequences of natural hazards such as landslides and floods. Although climate data and models are available, this information may not be easy to use.

NGI works actively to interpret these data and reduce the knowledge gap between climate researchers and managers in local municipalities. The research project EVOKED intends to adapt climate data to make the information more easier understood.

Increased understanding of uncertainty

EVOKED is a collaborative project between several EU countries. One of the case studies is Larvik municipality in Norway. The municipality cooperates with EVOKED to develop climate services for the planned development of the housing estate, Martineåsen. The area has natural depressions in the terrain and may be subject to flooding during periods of intense rainfall. Groundworking operations will affect the terrain leading to changes in runoff and perhaps flooding.

In a previous project, NGI mapped areas in Larvik that may experience flooding. This analysis is based on available climate forecasts. However, there is uncertainty about future man-made emissions, natural climate variations and the climate models used in forecasts. These uncertainties increase the complexity of the subsequent work at Martineåsen.

Researchers are working on the uncertainties related to climate change, including anticipation of future scenarios. However, there remains great uncertainty about future reality. To improve our understanding of what is happening and convey the uncertainties, the EVOKED project has looked at global socio-economic future scenarios and adapted them to local conditions. This is a recognized framework for assessing society's ability to adapt to climate change.

Stories about the future

To see the challenges Larvik faces, we came up with three selected scenarios based on what is most realistic and relevant to the municipality. The goal was to convey uncertainty related to climate in a way easily understood for Larvik's inhabitants.

Initially, we compiled the data in tabular form where information related to demography, human development, economy, lifestyle, politics, institutions, technology and the environment were included. This data was collected from the municipality's own documents and databases to give a realistic picture of the needs.

A sustainable Larvik (Fig. 1) is based on the municipality's plans, including the area, energy and climate plan. In addition, relevant strategies and action plans are included. The scenario represents the green shift, and represents the municipality plans at present.

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Figure 1 - A sustainable Larvik. Illustration: Bar Bakke

Business as usual (Fig. 2) is based on the argumentation for strategy documents, local knowledge and statistics, and promotes the situation as it is in Larvik today.

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Figure 2 - Business as usual. Illustration: Bar Bakke

Regional rivalry (Fig. 3) is also based on the municipality's strategies but shows an imaginary scenario if the development does not go as desired. Regional cooperation is important for Larvik and the surrounding areas to compete against centralization around the larger cities. If they lose the battle against the big cities, rivalry may occur between neighbouring municipalities.

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Figure 3 - Regional rivalry. Illustration: Bar Bakke

To make the data in the tables understandable, they were written as stories. In addition, the landscape architects Bar Bakke contributed with illustrations. The scenario used was Kleivertjern with Martineåsen in the background, a familiar motif for the inhabitants of the area.

Area planners for tomorrow

To find out if the illustrations were understandable, they were first displayed at a workshop for pupils from primary and lower secondary school in the neighbourhood, under the direction of the municipality. Here, the children were given ample time and opportunity to express their opinion about the area plans for the Martineåsen, and at the same time comment on the different scenarios.

The illustrations made an impression. Several of the children had interesting points of view, such as that Regional rivalry looked more like the present situation than Business as usual.

At the same time, several pupils noted that Regional rivalry should appear worse. They were concerned with prioritizing emission reduction and sustainability for the future. A sustainable Larvik, on the other hand, was referred to as "luxury". In addition, several of them suggested inclusion of playgrounds, places for seating and inclusion of animals. It was evident that the outdoor areas were important to these pupils.

This shows that illustrations are useful for highlighting socio-economic uncertainty related to climate adaptation. The children's comments are included in the illustrations and will be used further in EVOKED's work on Martineåsen.

Should one take the green shift as a starting point, existing conditions or a precautionary approach? The answer is revealing because climate adaptation and emission reduction are related. Conversion to a low-emission society reflects our willingness to adapt to these changes.

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Marit Vasbotten and Ingerid Heggelund from Larvik Municipality also contributed to this work.

Project EVOKED is part of ERA4CS, an ERA-NET initiated by JPI Climate, and funded by RCN (NO), FORMAS (SE), NWO (NL), BMBF (DE) with co-funding by European Union (Grant 690462).