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 better understand 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 for planning adaptation measures. [1], [2] One of the key objectives in Finland’s National Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2030 is to strengthen the knowledge base related to weather and climate change risks and adaptation [3].

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) and FIGARE were launched (1990–2002), both funded by the Research Council of Finland (previously known as Academy of Finland) [2], [4].

Over 80 research projects in the Finnish Research Programme on Climate Change (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 impacts on a few sectors. However, adaptation to climate change was only tentatively addressed. [5]

In the Finnish Global Change Research Programme (FIGARE), 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 influence the process of global change or adapt to the ongoing changes [5]. 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 (Assessing the adaptive capacity of the Finnish environment and society under a changing climate, 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. [6] 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 [5].

Adaptation research has diversified

The implementation of the adaptation strategy was supported with the government-funded Climate Change Adaptation Research Programme (ISTO, 2006–2010), which was funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Environment amongst others. 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 programme included 30 thematic projects related to agriculture, forestry, fisheries, spatial planning and construction, climate services, and biodiversity, among others. Extreme weather events and flood and drought risks as well as the international dimension of adaptation were also taken into account. [7] The results of the programme were compiled, inter alia, into a synthesis report [8]. he ISTO programme 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], [9], [2]

After ISTO, the Academy Programme Climate Change (FICCA,2011–2014) funded by the Research Council 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 programme studied in particular the risks and vulnerabilities of climate change related to e.g., floods, urban water management, energy, biodiversity, and agriculture. [10], [2], [9]

Sectoral challenges and risk management have been studied in specific projects

In recent years, research on adaptation has broadened the knowledge base of different sectors and sought to find solutions to the climate challenges they face. There are and have been several sector-specific adaptation research projects in Finland, mainly funded from domestic sources.

Research has focused, for instance, on

  • health: the PLUMES project funded by the Research Council of Finland [11] and the CLIHE research programme [12], that funds, for example, the CHAMPS [13] and HEATCLIM projects [14].
  • water: the project on preparing for climate change and the possible health impacts in water services by the Finnish Climate Change Panel [15] and the Sustainable flood risk management project funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry [16].
  • agriculture: for instance, the ILMAPUSKURI project funded through the Development Fund for Agriculture and Forestry [17] and the awareness raising projects funded though the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland, the most recent of which is the MURU project [18].
  • forestry: the FORBIO project focused on forest bioeconomy, funded by the Research Council of Finland [19], the FOSTER project [20].
  • biodiversity: the A-LA-CARTE project funded through FICCA [21].
  • security of supply: ILMAHUOLTO project funded by the National Emergency Supply Agency [22].
  • energy production: the PREDICT project funded by the Nuclear Waste Management Fund [23].

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 [24] In recent years, projects have also looked at nature-based solutions, examples of these projects include TASAPELI [25] and OPERANDUM [26].

Finland has also been actively involved in several EU-funded adaptation research projects. Examples of these projects are VACCIA, which focused on the vulnerability of ecosystems and livelihoods [27], [28], BASE, which looked at the usability of adaptation information [29], [9], [2] and the more recent CASCADES, which examines cascading risks [30].

Newer adaptation research has focused on comprehensive assessments

As the implementation of adaptation action progresses, research aims to support the holistic development of adaptation as well as the work done in different sectors (figure 1).

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

© Finnish Environment Institute

Weather and climate related risk management was assessed in the project ELASTINEN (Proactive management of weather and climate related risks, 2015–2016) 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. The project was funded by the Government's analysis, assessment and research activities. [31], [32]

Weather and climate risks in different sectors were further studied in the SIETO project (Assessment of weather and climate risks, 2017–2018). This project was also funded by the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities. A national weather and climate risk assessment and approaches for further risk assessments were conducted as part of the project. [33] The results of the project were used extensively in the preparation of a national risk assessment in 2023 [34].

The Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities also funded the KOKOSOPU project, which conducted a comprehensive evaluation of Finland’s national adaptation policy. The evaluation examined the successes and challenges faced by the national adaptation plan 2014. It also compared the progress made in Finnish adaptation policy to that of other countries and examined the changes that will affect adaptation in the future. [35]

Adaptation research continues to focus on a multidisciplinary approach

Regional and local actors are important implementors of adaptation actions and this is starting to be noticeable in adaptation research. Examples of research looking at local and regional issues include the SUOMI project by the Finnish Climate Panel. It examined the impacts of climate change in different regions of Finland [36]. Other examples are the FINSCAPES [37] and Adapt-FIRST [38], projects funded by the Research Council of Finland that produce information on climate change and adaptation that also supports regional level adaptation work.

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 of adaptation measures [2]. The KUITTI project, funded through Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities, has examined the costs of adaptation and the economic impacts of climate change [39]. However, more research on the costs of adaptation and the impacts of climate change on Finland’s economy is needed [40].

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].