Harsh weather conditions pushes green shift
"Here in Western Norway we are closer to floods and extreme weather," says climate researcher and centre director Håvard Haarstad.
Climate and energy transformation is one of three priority areas of UiB. We know climate changes are real, but what to do with them?
Opening last October, our Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation (CET) looks at the changes from a social perspective. Håvard Haarstad with the Department of Geography is the director of the initiative:
"We're engaged in societal crossroads, to know what to do with the ambitious goals we've set for ourselves. How do we get there? What policies are effective, and what factors will trigger quick changes?"
Haarstad states it's especially important for such a centre to be places in western Norway. To draw from the competence that's already here, of course, but also because we're closer to the climate change effects. CICERO in Oslo are strong, but we feel the changes up close.
"We're closer to floods and extreme weather, the oil industry crisis led to heavier unemployment in our region. Large parts of the businesses here are exposed to policies on climate change, and are engaged in their forming," he says.
"We need more research on solutions"
Even though the core of CET is in social sciences, he emphasizes the need for an interdisciplinary centre. Cooperation with the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, psychology and humanities is important to find solutions. This is a new tradition.
"The way we relate to research is that it should be problem driven – we find problems first, and then what disciplines we can use to solve it, rather than starting within a single research field," says Haarstad.
"We need more research on solutions, and how society handles the problems."
Climate change should be related on all levels, from municipal to national to global. Haarstad sees the importance of communicating with all sides, including the business world, and that what comes from the CET should be actionable research.
"When you're publishing in international scientific journals your location isn't the most important part. But our work can't be sitting in an office writing a brilliant article," says Haarstad, pointing to partnerships outside academia.
"Being in dialog with societal actors makes us better. Producing knowledge isn't solely about being nice to society, but the research becomes a different process. Both the research and what is finalised by it becomes more relevant for decision makers."
Sustainable city development is key
Cities have become important actors in transformations, especially when international climate agreements has been a slow-working process. Working with sustainable city development is a project Haarstad has taken into the centre.
"We have a research group with Norwegian Citizen Panel working with how opinions are formed, and a strategic priority is zero emission transport – how to get long-distance transport systems with no pollution. The question is how to get there."
Partnerships outside Norway is also key. In October Haarstad and UiB SpaceLab arranged the conference Beyond Oil, with researchers from Germany, Sweden and England. Although he says research is an international championship and not a regional competition, anchoring the centre locally is important.
"We picture the centre as a hub bringing people together, sharing knowledge – inside and outside the university."