Portrait of a climate city: How climate change is changing the way Bergen interprets and adapts to its climate

09:00 Thursday 30 May

SS041 • OC244

Room S11


Scott Bremer (Norway) 1; Werner Krauss (Germany) 2; Arjan Wardekker (Netherlands) 3; Juan Baztan (France) 4; Charlotte Da Cunha (France) 4; Jean-Paul Vanderlinden (France) 4

1 - University of Bergen; 2 - University of Bremen; 3 - Utrecht University; 4 - University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Climate change is dramatically shifting the way cities interpret and live with their local climate. Some scholars (see Jasanoff, 2010; Miller, 2004) describe this shift in terms of mutually co-evolving natural and social orders. On one hand, our experienced changes to the ‘normal’ patterns of weather (the natural order) are reorganizing social activities and institutions in our cities. On the other hand, rapid advances in climate science and policy are re-framing the way we relate to the climate; from a localized aggregation of weather patterns, to apprehensible only through global circulation models. This analysis of climate change, as simultaneously co-produced through natural and social change, is helpful for understanding the context of climate adaptation.

This paper analyses how climate change is emerging as a matter of concern in the city of Bergen, and what implications this has for local adaptation. Bergen, on Norway’s west coast, is a unique example because it has a strong identity as Europe’s rainiest city. Bergen’s wet weather has historically shaped its cultural and social life, from clothing to city planning, and steered early advances in meteorology and forecasting; Vilhem Bjerknes founded the Bergen School of Meteorology in 1917. This has nurtured Bergensers self-image as climate-resilient people.

But the past 15 years has seen Bergen’s identity shift from a ‘weather city’ to a ‘climate city’. This paper draws on ethnographic research, interviews and document analysis to map this shift as co-produced by certain events: socially by the growing influence of climate science with the opening of the prestigious Bjerknes Centre in 2003 for example, and naturally through disasters like the deadly landslide on Hatlestad Terrace in 2005 that elevated climate change as a political matter of concern.

This identity shift is essential to understanding shifts in Bergen’s adaptive governance. As a weather city, adaptation was implicit to the cities heritage; based on generations of lived experience and practice, with the oldest water and sewage management system in Norway for instance. As a climate city, adaptation is related to mitigation as a forward-looking activity; part of the city council’s vision for Bergen as a ‘1.5 degree city’. It is less about living with today’s weather, and more about predicting the climate in 30 to 50 years.

Critically employing co-production, as an analytical lens in a historical perspective, can help us understand the multiple facets to cities adaptation challenge, including the role of culture and identity.