“We Must Adapt” – Authors of Iceland’s New Climate Report

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

Altered weather patterns, increased landslides, and heightened flood risks are among the challenges Icelanders will face in the coming years, according to an expert from the Icelandic MET Office. A report entitled “Climate Resilient Iceland, which was unveiled yesterday, emphasises the urgent need for Icelandic society to adapt to the already evident impacts of climate change, Vísir reports.

“Humans have always adapted”

Yesterday, a report titled “Climate Resilient Iceland” (i.e. Loftslagsþolið Ísland in Icelandic) was unveiled. Commissioned by the Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate, a steering committee produced the report to assess the necessary measures for society to adapt to climate change, emphasising that the impacts of climate change are already evident.

When questioned by a Vísir journalist about whether emphasising adaptation to climate change signified a form of resignation, Anna Hulda Ólafsdóttir, Office Manager of Climate Services and Adaptation at the Icelandic Meteorological Office and a co-author of the report, replied, “Yes and no; this is the reality we are facing. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. Humans have always adapted to changing circumstances.”

Anna Hulda emphasised that environmental changes are accelerating and becoming more evident through natural events. “We’re witnessing an increase in landslides, floods, and shifts in precipitation patterns, with intense rainfall in short durations followed by prolonged droughts,” she stated.

Data collection and dissemination

As noted by Vísir, the report delves into the consequences of these threats. Drought conditions elevate wildfire risks, which can jeopardise human lives and threaten infrastructure. The global warming phenomenon is reshaping ecosystems and heightening the risk of infectious diseases. Intense rainfalls escalate flood hazards, causing potential damage to infrastructure. The melting of glaciers is redirecting river courses, and the thawing of permafrost is triggering landslides, each with its inherent risks. Furthermore, marine ecosystems are changing due to ocean acidification and warming, affecting marine biodiversity.

The report recommends a comprehensive approach, suggesting an evaluation of the insurance system in light of these risks. It outlines four priority actions, with an emphasis on enhancing data collection and dissemination.

One of the highlighted actions, for example, is the development of a “Climate Atlas,” envisioned as a visual guide to the United Nations’ climate change projections. Canada’s existing model, which provides insights into shifts in precipitation, temperature, and other elements, serves as an inspiration for this initiative.

The report also advocates for a comprehensive monitoring strategy to assess the repercussions of climate change. It recommends the launch of a data portal, offering access to historical records of natural phenomena. This portal would also help pinpoint risks tied to global climate shifts, such as potential disruptions to supply chains and migration patterns of refugees.

A comprehensive approach is necessary

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, the Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate, acknowledged that while some of these initiatives are funded, there’s potential to optimise the use of human resources: “To simplify, when implementing countermeasures and adaptation strategies, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive understanding to guide our actions. A consistent team should manage this effort. Furthermore, it’s essential to disseminate accurate information to all, particularly those involved in infrastructure planning and zoning.”