Memorial in Grue marking ruinous floods caused by the river Glomma since Storofsen in 1789. Photo: Gunhild Setten
Climate change and natural hazards: the geography of community resilience in Norway
This project is set to investigate how community resilience manifests itself in communities in Norway in relation to climate change related natural hazards. It is a fact that climate change affects countries, regions and communities differently. Norway as a nation, may cope with climate change reasonably well because the country scores high on so-called key resilience-resources: economic development, social capital, community competence and information and communication. Research shows, however, that vulnerability to climate related hazards may vary considerably between regions and municipalities in Norway.
The project will investigate how communities prepare for, act during, and recover after a crisis. The ability to respond to crisis will be increasingly important because studies indicate that climate change is likely to lead to more extreme weather with more intense precipitation in Norway, potentially causing more frequent and damaging floods and landslides. The capability to cope in situations of crisis is hence of vital importance. This capability is commonly referred to as community resilience, which, with a few exceptions, has not been much explored within a Norwegian climate change context.
A combination of survey data, qualitative case studies and visualization techniques will be used in order to identify measures which can assist communities in preparing for, coping with, and recovering from disastrous events.
People, place and community resilienceThis project examines the salience of place, community resources and identity. In crisis situations, places are disrupted and experience a myriad of losses – financially, socially, symbolically and materially – resulting in both spatial and temporal disorientation. It is hence of vital importance to understand individuals’ experiences of such disorientation, in order to understand a community’s resilience. Conversely, communities not having experienced disruption, although identified as vulnerable and susceptible to future disruption, will also need to be prepared. In both cases, consideration of individual’s construction of place, identity and home for building a collective notion of community and belonging is vital, in order to identify the meaning and enactment of CR through key resilience-resources.
Extensive interviewing of actors in communities will serve as the main methodological approach. Further, analysis of local news media accounts will be conducted in order to tease out dominant discursive constructions of hazards and the recovery process. This enables us to study ideas and metaphors important for CR and how it is enacted locally as well as nationally.
Quantitative analysis of community resilienceThrough a survey approach we will be able to test whether the results from the ‘People, place and community resilience’ project, focusing on smaller groups of individuals and communities, also hold when including larger populations and a broader range of communities across space and scale. A quantitative analysis of community resilience will further help identify a range of measurable indicators which can be used to map CR across Norway using the visualization tool provided by the ‘Visualising community resilience’ project.
We will conduct two national surveys, one in 2015 and one in 2017. In the surveys, we will ask respondents to convey their perceptions of how resilient they deem their household, neighbourhood and municipality to be. Further, the respondents will be asked to identify factors that they deem to be important for CR and to what extent they feel these factors are contributing to the level of resilience in their community.
To gain more in-depth understanding of CR and how it is shaped by exposure to hazards as well as experience from them, we will conduct a survey centred on people living in differently exposed areas and with different past experiences from hazard events. This includes people living in low risk areas where larger hazards have taken place. This survey will be more limited in geographic scope, concentrating on 8-12 localities in Norway.
Visualizing community resilienceWe will design and develop a web based visualization tool that disseminates the geography of exposure (historical economic damage) due to natural hazards on a local level. This tool will help identify places which have been exposed to one or several natural hazards (riverine floods, landslides, storms, storm surges and – if possible – urban flooding). The tool will also make visual the geography of socio-economic vulnerability and the vulnerability of the built environment.
The visualization tool will be used in interviews and focus group meetings in order to trigger discussions and thus, to gather empirical data. Respondents will be presented maps and graphs showing places’ exposure to natural hazards as well as their social vulnerability. Confronted with such visual material, interviewees and respondents will be asked whether or not they are prepared for a possible intensification of hazard events due to climate change.
To take benefit of whatever reaction these visual material may create among relevant stakeholders and the general public, a methodology will be developed on how a web-based visualization tool can serve as a platform for participatory assessment of community resilience. A challenge is to take the inputs from a participatory assessment of community resilience and transfer these to measurable indicators of community resilience.