Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Integration of natural hazards, risk and climate change into spatial planning practices

Philipp Schmidt-Thomé

Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Geology and Geological Survey of Finland.

Most countries of Europe, as well as many countries in other parts of the world, are experiencing an increased impact of natural hazards. It is often speculated, but not yet proven, that climate change might influence the frequency and magnitude of certain hydro-meteorological natural hazards. What has certainly been observed is a sharp increase in financial losses caused by natural hazards worldwide. Eventhough Europe appears to be a space that is not affected by natural hazards to such catastrophic extents as other parts of the world are, the damages experienced here are certainly increasing too. Natural hazards, climate change and, in particular, risks have therefore recently been put high on the political agenda of the EU.

In the search for appropriate instruments for mitigating impacts of natural hazards and climate change, as well as risks, the integration of these factors into spatial planning practices is constantly receiving higher attention. The focus of most approaches lies on single hazards and climate change mitigation strategies. The current paradigm shift of climate change mitigation to adaptation is used as a basis to draw conclusions and recommendations on what concepts could be further incorporated into spatial planning practices. Especially multi-hazard approaches are discussed as an important approach that should be developed further. One focal point is the definition and applicability of the terms natural hazard, vulnerability and risk in spatial planning practices. Especially vulnerability and risk concepts are so many-fold and complicated that their application in spatial planning has to be analysed most carefully.

The PhD thesis is based on six published articles that describe the results of European research projects, which have elaborated strategies and tools for integrated communication and assessment practices on natural hazards and climate change impacts. The papers describe approaches on local, regional and European level, both from theoretical and practical perspectives. Based on these, passed, current and future potential spatial planning applications are reviewed and discussed.

In conclusion it is recommended to shift from single hazard assessments to multi-hazard approaches, integrating potential climate change impacts. Vulnerability concepts should play a stronger role than present, and adaptation to natural hazards and climate change should be more emphasized in relation to mitigation. It is outlined that the integration of risk concepts in planning is rather complicated and would need very careful assessment to ensure applicability. Future spatial planning practices should also consider to be more interdisciplinary, i.e. to integrate as many stakeholders and experts as possible to ensure the sustainability of investments.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 22.11.2006

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