One thing we quickly discovered was how difficult the issue of accountability is. Does accountability lie with the municipal water company, with City officials working on environmental and climate issues, with urban planners, or is it a safety issue? What was missing was an integrated group of experts from different sections tackling the issue in a holistic manner — something the City has now created.
What are we currently doing for the City of Stockholm regarding climate adaptation?
Jonatan: We conduct thematic analyses on climate threats to the city’s geographical areas. The first analysis was around the so-called ‘cloudburst’, a major rainfall event that is statistically likely to reoccur every 100 years. Given that we can expect both a hotter and more extreme climate, it is very likely that a person born today in Stockholm will experience a cloudburst during their lifetime.
How extensive is the impact of a once-in-a-100-year rainfall event?
Jonatan: Up to one metre of water will flow on some streets and in other places where water tends to collect, perhaps even deeper. Without going into detail, I can say that while the frequency of occurrences is low, all cities are very vulnerable to cloudbursts and critical infrastructure will be severely hit.
Lena-Maria: There are buildings in Stockholm dating as far back as the 13th century, which is a challenge even without extensive rainfall. The metro system can easily become flooded too. We have looked at the low water points and checked whether there is any critical infrastructure. We are also looking at all essential services within the city’s geographical area, not just at services run by the city itself. This means we have needed to study flood maps and discuss findings with representatives for a large number of public and private actors. Discussions that have led to better knowledge and awareness and resulted in direct measures within the area of city planning and crisis preparedness.
Jonatan: Having completed the cloudburst project, we are now analysing the challenges presented by heatwaves and their impact on society, based on data from May and June 2018, Stockholm’s hottest months in 260 years. Once completed, we intend to look at several other climate-related threats. This can, for example, include snowstorms, rivers overflowing their banks and rock and mud slides. This is something we encourage all municipalities to do, as the problems we see are only going to get worse.
Lena-Maria: Extensive projects need to be carried out and we need to start now, because it will not be possible to implement all necessary measures at once. Robustness is the aim: whatever hits the city, we need to be able to deal with it.
Do you have any advice on how to start strengthening climate and safety efforts?
Lena-Maria: Start in your own backyard. Think small! Use the knowledge you already have and link up the processes within the risk and vulnerability area. Take existing material and add another dimension.
Jonatan: It is a great idea to start small! Another challenge that we often see in municipalities is the question of “who owns the climate?” Collaboration between the safety unit, technical administrations and those who work closely with climate and environmental issues is necessary.
Lena-Maria: Yes, because this will lead to meetings, projects and new innovations that are both exciting and challenging.
Jonatan: These risks are almost existential in nature and therefore require particularly urgent attention. It is not a question of whether climate-related events will happen but when in time. In many ways it is the municipality’s responsibility to ensure they are managed in the best possible way. It is therefore not only a question of preparing proactively and mitigating the consequences of risk, but also of knowing what to do when a violent rainstorm hits, for example.
Finally, who is actually accountable when things happen?
Lena-Maria: Yes, that is exactly the problem; it is not clear whose responsibility this is, but everyone must take on at least some of the responsibility, which our current work is starting to address. We are primarily accountable toward future generations, and must start doing things right immediately.
Please contact Jonatan Jürisoo if you would like to learn more about how risk and vulnerability analyses can be used in the climate field, and how to build your organisational resilience. Click below to read more of our case studies.