Norway has been slammed by severe storms but are they worse due to climate change, is the inevitable question?
It does not matter. Even if climate change or natural variation causes worsening storms, we can stop storm damage from increasing and should choose to do so.
We select where and how to build our infrastructure as a society. For example, river and coastal floodplains are relatively easy to identify around Norway, and we have often chosen to build on these floodplains. Those choices can increase or decrease damage in any storm.
Yet climate change or any extreme storm could cause buildings that sit just outside a floodplain to be ‘moved’ inside. Relocating a building is not easy and might not even be desirable, despite the flood threat.
Other choices relate to measures that increase a building's flood resistance. One can use paint and other finishes that are resistant to water, salt, and contaminants, for instance. Another option is installing one-way valves on drains and toilets to avoid sewage backing up.
If implemented properly, other examples of measures to reduce storm damage are warning systems and insurance. They exist in Norway. Nevertheless, it is often an individual's choice whether to listen to warnings or to purchase insurance.
Yet not everyone can afford to retrofit their property or buy cover. People with certain disabilities can find it hard to evacuate from their home or office. When we speak of "choices", we must also look at circumstances that inhibit individuals having all options available.
All these actions have advantages and disadvantages. You should investigate the ups and downs before doing anything.
Although none of these topics or decisions link to climate change it is still about how society makes decisions, allocates power and resources, and helps people who need help.
Perhaps storms will get worse due to climate change, perhaps not. Whatever happens, Norway still experiences damage from floods and storms.
We can do much better, though.
Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).
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