RCN grants 12 million to Arctic Safety Centre project

Longyearbyen in dark season. Photo: Emil Söderlund/UNIS.

Top image: Longyearbyen in dark season. Photo: Emil Söderlund/UNIS. 

The Research Council of Norway (RCN) has granted NOK 12 million to the Arctic Safety Centre project “Risk governance, early warning and climate change adaptation in the Arctic”, to develop better knowledge about assessment, monitoring and management of a comprehensive risk picture that is changing as a result of climate change.

21 December 2020
Press release from The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS)

The Arctic Safety Centre project at UNIS is a collaboration with NTNU, and several local actors such as Longyearbyen Lokalstyre, the Governor of Svalbard, Telenor Svalbard and others.

This is a three-year project with a budget of approx. NOK 17 million, of which the Research Council provides approx. NOK 12 million.

“This is fantastic news”, says UNIS director Jøran Moen. “This project is solidly anchored in our strategy and the strong local collaboration is also of importance for the Arctic Safety Centre and UNIS”, he says.

Svalbard and Longyearbyen are noticing climate change to a greater extent and earlier than other parts of the world.

“These climate changes have an impact on natural hazards, which in turn affects societal safety. Climate change means that uncertainty and dynamics in the risk picture become a challenge for both risk assessments, monitoring and management”, says Martin Indreiten, the operating manager of the Arctic Safety Centre.

The project will create better knowledge about assessment, monitoring and management of a comprehensive risk picture (connection between danger sources, nature, infrastructure, societal functions, business and the population) that is changing as a result of climate change.

Successful risk governance strategies developed in response to destabilized climate conditions in Arctic locations can serve as a source of early warning frameworks for climate change adaptation in mainland Norway and other relevant parts of the world. Longyearbyen, Svalbard will be used a “living lab” to study and develop approaches to risk governance that will reduce systemic risks i.e. risks related to a combination of climate change, natural hazards and rippling effects on citizens, infrastructure and societal functions. The primary objective is to develop knowledge and tools to make sense of and deal with effects of climate change on society’s ability to protect the life and health of its citizens and to maintain critical infrastructure and function. To achieve the project’s objectives a transdisciplinary approach involving perspectives from technology, safety science, natural science and sociology is applied. The methodology is based on case studies and action research in Longyearbyen which encompass combinations of different research methods.

A key societal impact is to contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goal no.13 Climate Action. The project will contribute to the realization of the Norwegian government’s strategy for innovation and development in Svalbard by potential research-based innovation of systems for climate change adaptation.

Project leader is Professor Eirik Albrechtsen, NTNU and UNIS. The project includes funding for two temporary full-time research positions at UNIS. In addition, researchers from NTNU Social Research, SINTEF and the University of Stavanger who have expert knowledge in risk assessment, management and social safety participate. Together with the scientific environment at UNIS, there will be a solid interdisciplinary project group that is important since social safety is an interdisciplinary subject area.

The research group will collaborate closely with local stakeholders in Longyearbyen to achieve the objectives of the project. The most important R&D challenges addressed are: 1) to improve and integrate fragmented steps in risk governance; 2) to demonstrate how to assess and manage uncertainties associated with climate-related systemic risk governance; 3) to make sense of how real-time data, expert knowledge and local knowledge can be combined to control natural hazards; 4) to assess effective strategies for climate change adaptation; 5) demonstrate transferability and innovation of project results.

The project starts up in 2021.


Arctic Safety Centre Press releases Research