Research supports climate change adaptation


Research on climate change adaptation has developed from a natural science focus towards more multidisciplinary approaches in recent years. In Finland, climate change adaptation has been supported for instance through national research programmes and projects. Research results help us better understand not only climate change risks and vulnerabilities, but also the possibilities of adaptation as well as potential adaptation measures.

Adaptation research is carried out in many sectors

Research for climate change adaptation requires a diverse approach that covers both natural science and social science aspects. Research results help us understand better the challenges and opportunities related to a changing climate and the extent to which changes are required. Research findings can also produce new adaptation solutions. Information gained from research is valuable when implementing adaptation measures. One of the key objectives in Finland’s National Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2022 is to enhance research and development work that supports adaptation. [1], [2]

Research on climate change impacts and adaptation has been conducted in Finland both through broad research programmes and as individual research and development projects. Adaptation research is funded by many different national and European sources. [2]

Early adaptation research focused on natural science aspects and impacts of climate change

In Finland, climate change has been widely studied in research programmes since the early 1990s when the research programmes SILMU (1990–1995) [3] and FIGARE were launched (1990–2002) both funded by the Academy of Finland [4].

Over 80 research projects in SILMU focused on the natural science aspects of climate change in the atmosphere (including the first climate change scenarios for Finland), forests and peatlands, and the impact on a few industries. However, adaptation to climate change was only tentatively addressed. [3]

In FIGARE programme, the research expanded from natural sciences to social, economic and technological issues related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The main objective in the programme was to find solutions to help intervene in the process of global change or adapt to the ongoing changes. The results from the 36 projects were still largely focused on the impacts of climate change. [4]

The first research programme that specifically focused on adaptation in Finland was FINADAPT (2004–2005) funded by the Ministry of Environment. It addressed the following topics: climate data and scenarios, biological diversity, forestry, agriculture, water resources, human health, transport, the built environment, energy infrastructure, tourism and recreation, a socio-economic preparatory study and urban planning. [5] The programme studied adaptation to the potential impacts of climate change in Finland and identified new research needs [2].

The results from SILMU, FIGARE and FINADAPT were widely used in the preparation of Finland’s National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change launched in 2005 [6].

Adaptation research has diversified

Implementation of the adaptation strategy was supported with government-funded Climate Change Adaptation Research Programme (ISTO, 2006–2010). Information required for the design and implementation of adaptation measures was produced and application of measures from theory to practice was promoted in ISTO [7].

The ISTO research program included 30 thematic projects related to agriculture, forestry, fisheries, spatial planning and construction, climate services and biodiversity. Extreme weather events and flood and drought risks as well as the international dimension of adaptation were also taken into account. The comprehensive results of the programme were aggregated centrally [8], [9]. The ISTO program was comprehensive and addressed many previously identified data gaps. However, only a few research topics went beyond natural sciences or applied multisectoral approaches. Moreover, ISTO did not address many regional or local adaptation issues as the focus was primarily on the national level. [7], [10], [2].

After ISTO, the Academy Programme Climate Change FICCA (2011–2014) funded by the Academy of Finland was launched. It addressed climate change challenges from both social and environmental perspectives. Its purpose was to further support multidisciplinary research. Five projects in the program studied in particular the risks and vulnerabilities of climate change related to e.g. floods, urban water management, energy, biodiversity and agriculture. [11], [2], [10]

Sectoral challenges and risk management have been studied in specific projects

In addition to broader research programmes, various individual research projects focusing on different sectors have been carried out. In recent years, adaptation research has expanded the knowledge level of different sectors and sought solutions to their climate challenges. Climate risk assessment and management had also gained more attention (figure 1).

Forest ecosystems and the use of forest resources in a changing climate (MIL) was a broad sectoral research programme in 2007–2012. Its 14 research projects produced information e.g. on the impacts of climate change on Finnish forests and forest ecosystems and on the ability of forests to adapt to the changing climate. [12] The vulnerability and adaptation of ecosystem services and livelihoods to a changing climate was assessed in the VACCIA project in 2009-2011 [13], [14].

Weather and climate related risk management was assessed in the project ELASTINEN in 2015–2016 [15],[16]. The project assessed risk management measures, roles of different actors in climate-related risk situations, transboundary impacts of climate change and the costs and benefits of climate risk management. Weather and climate risks in different sectors were further studied in the SIETO project (2017–2018) [17]. Both projects were funded by Government's analysis, assessment and research activities. [2]

Figure 1. Examples of national research programmes and projects related to adaptation.

© Finnish Environment Institute

Many other sector-specific projects have been funded mainly from domestic sources. Research topics have included for example health (PLUMES-project [18]), water (FICCA research project ClimWater [19]), agriculture (e.g. ILMAPUSKURI [20]) and biodiversity (FICCA research project A-LA-CARTE [21]). FORBIO-project (2015-2021) focuses on the challenges in sustainable, climate-neutral and resource-efficient forest-based bioeconomy [22]. Finland has also been actively involved in several EU-funded adaptation research projects, such as BASE [23] and ToPDad [24]. [10], [2]

Adaptation research continues to focus on a multidisciplinary approach

Studies of climate change impacts have to date been emphasized in adaptation research. Increasingly, attention is being paid to the assessment and management of climate risk and the implementation of adaptation measures. Examples of such research are recent projects ELASTINEN [15] and SIETO [17].

Further studies are needed for instance on the types of adaptation measures needed and how adaptation is promoted in different sectors. There is also high interest in studies on the costs and benefits adaptation measures. Furthermore, an important part of the research work is also training and education of experts. [2]

In future adaptation research, it is important to consider the actors that can benefit from the research and to whom the information is being produced. Likewise, it is beneficial to view adaptation needs from the perspective of different research themes or topics. Increasing attention in adaptation research is being paid to for example health impacts of climate change and linkages to managing societal security issues [2].