Museum tour

For the final part of the visit, I stayed in Tromsø, where I continued with interviews. During the time in Norway, I visited a few museums, and I wanted to share a few photos and thoughts here.

Before leaving Oslo, I visited the Norwegian Maritime Museum. The Museum holds an important collection documenting Norwegian maritime history and coastal culture and the exhibitions highlight the importance of shipping throughout the history of Norway.

Lighthouse made of old fishing nets outside the Maritime Museum.

The final exhibition illustrated the importance of shipping in Norway today, with the slogan “Norway is the Sea”. Throughout the exhibition, the competence and experience of the Norwegian maritime industry, including the seafarers and fishermen, was highlighted. Shipping was shown as the driving force of the petroleum industry, put simply “No ships, no oil”.

The Norwegian Maritime Museum.

The exhibition gave a good introduction to the different types of vessels needed in offshore oil productions, from surveying boats to tug supply ships to tankers transporting oil.

Miniature models of the old and new boats, as well as platforms, were displayed, including a heavy lift vessel designed for carrying the actual platforms…I don’t have a good photo of the model, but on google, you can find a photo of a similar vessel. This is a photo of Goliat platform being transported – the Goliat oilfield is the world’s northernmost offshore development, situated around 85 km Northwest from Hammerfest.


A contrasting perspective to natural resource use was presented by  Tromsø University Museum. The museum displays two Sami exhibitions – one on cultural traditions and the other on the political awakening among Sami in Norway after the Second World War.

The Norwegian Sami Parliament is the representative body for people of Sami heritage in Norway and it was created in 1989. The Parliament was created after a major conflict over the damning of the Alta river in Finnmark in 1970-1980’s. The Norwegian government has also ratified the UN Convention on indigenous peoples’ rights (ILO 169), which guarantees, for example, consultations with the Sami when deciding on large-scale projects that could affect Sami livelihoods. The Finnmark Act is based on the ILO 169 and guarantees the Sami the rights to land resources, but does not cover the right to marine resources, which are managed as national property.

The coastal Sami depended on fishing and small-scale farming.

The museum collections tell the story of how the Sami have been able to develop a collective identity and interests (with common language traditions, and a shared history and culture), even though they have no national borders or a state of their own.

During my final day in Tromsø, I had an interview with one of the representatives of the Norwegian Sami Parliament. He highlighted the active role Sami have in fighting against climate change: the Parliament takes part in the UN Climate Convention negotiations.  The Sami Council, on the other hand, represents Sami communities in the Arctic Council.

Finally, I learned a bit about modern Sami culture, I leave you with link to a music video:

“This is my land” by Sofia Jannok


Now, I am already back home and I have been transcribing the interviews and going through the causal networks drawn by the participant. During the trip, I didn’t manage to interview all the participants I had wanted, so a few more interviews will be carried by Skype. I hope to write a few notes about this later 😊

View from Telegrafbukta, Tromsø



Greenpeace Norway vs. Norwegian government

This week I had the chance to go see the court case against Norwegian government for opening new areas for oil exploration in the Barents Sea.

The case is led by environmental organizations, Greenpeace Norway and Nature and Youth Norway, who argue that the Norwegian government has violated its constitutional environmental law, known as Section 112, that grants every person and future generations the right to a healthy environment. The plaintiffs argue that oil drilling must be stopped for both local and global considerations by emphasizing the contribution of oil drilling to global warming and arguing that the any new oil drilling goes against the Paris agreement.

The court case started on Tuesday (14th of November) and on Wednesday morning, I was lucky enough to go and see the case live. The courtroom was full on Tuesday (I had tried to get in in the afternoon with no luck) but even on Wednesday the room was packed with public, members of the NGOs, journalists and reporters, and even some celebrities. I felt very moved and honoured, and also a bit nervous, after all, we were in a courtroom – however, there was a sense of real excitement, finally, the process had started and the results of the case could be of great importance in terms of fighting against climate change. The results could have significant repercussions across the globe: 90 countries have similar constitutional laws guaranteeing right to a healthy environment and the decision of the court could set an international precedent!

Outside the Oslo District Court.

Here, I wanted to write about few of the points made on Wednesday. The first statement on Wednesday was given by Eystein Jansen, Professor in Earth Sciences/ Paleoclimatology (University of Bergen) and the second by Bjørn Samset, Research Director of CICERO (Center for International Climate Research).

Greenpeace argues that to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, oil production must be put down. Both of the statements emphasized the need for fast action and measures to reduce greenhouse gases globally. The first point I would like to highlight from the two talks is that the current policies are not by far sufficient, and in order to limit warming 2°C  above pre-industrial levels, new and effective measures are badly needed! The graph below is produced by “Climate Action Tracker”, which is an independent science-based assessment, and shows the projections for warming based on pledges and current policies.

Effect of current pledges and policies on global temperature (Source:

What the graph shows, is that with the current policies as well as the pledges, we are still far from reaching the 2°C  goal! The current policies results in about 3.4 °C warming above pre-industrial levels – therefore, there still remains an immense gap between the promises of the governments and the total level of actions that they have undertaken to date. Quick action is needed, but reaching the goals require drastic political efforts, technological measures and social change. Putting an end to drilling for more oil would be one step forward.

Secondly, the statements emphasized the historical responsibility of Norway. Norway is the seventh largest CO2 emission exporter in the world1. The historic emissions of Norway mean that also the greenhouse gas reductions should be higher for Norway. This principle of burden sharing would take the issues of justice and power into account when setting national reduction goals: the countries that have contributed the most to the climate change, should also bear the biggest burden in reducing their emissions. Eystein Jansen emphasized that when considering the historic emissions as well as the technological and financial capacity of Norway, the reduction goal of Norway could be from 3 to up to 15 times higher than the current goal of reducing 21 Mt of CO2 emissions by 2030! The current policies are in no way sufficient to reach such climate targets.

This brings me to my final point: how can we calculate e.g. the global emissions or the needed reduction goals? And how do we treat the massive uncertainties related to these calculations? These numbers are needed for effective decision-making and scientists are doing their best to ensure that these calculations and models are reliable and objectives. However, it’s important to take into consideration, that these seemingly objective processes are in many ways value-laden and characterized by high uncertainties.  After all, for example, the choice of the method and the scope of the study may affect the policy outcome – simply put, if we only use calculations that ignore the historical emissions of Norway, we might consider that Norway’s reduction goals of 21Mt of CO2 emissions by 2030 are ambitious and that Norway is slowly but surely on its way to achieving these goals (even with a bit of Arctic oil exploitation), but if we consider that Norway needs to consider also its historical emission and act in a globally just and responsible way, then the story seems a bit more complex.  Therefore, even if the calculations themselves provide basis for decision-making, we should acknowledge the value-ladenness as well as the uncertainties related to these calculations. Ultimately, the final decision is a value question, not a scientific one.


For more:

Oil spill risk governance in the Barents Sea

“The nature of scientific thinking is critical, rebellious and dissatisfied with a priori conceptions, with reverence and sacred or untouchable truth. The search for knowledge is not nourished by certainty: it is nourished by a radical distrust in certainty” (Rovelli, 2016)

Norway has high hopes (and high stakes?) in terms of oil and gas production in the Arctic waters. In 2015, the Norwegian government opened new blocks for oil exploration in the Barents Sea as part of the 23rd licensing round – this was the first time in twenty years that the government offered new blocks for exploration. Furthermore, it was the first time that drilling blocks were opened as far North as in the 74th parallel. These openings were further followed by 10 additional blocks in the 74th parallel by the subsequent 24th licensing round.

My on-going research examines oil spill risk governance in the Barents Sea. In November 2017, I will be interviewing participants from different fields in Norway and with the use of visual tools (Bayesian causal networks), the aim is to compare how the different participants frame the problems in terms of petroleum production in the Barents sea: the questions relate to the main threats/ impacts of petroleum industry as considered by the participants, the perceived goals of risk governance and the ways these goals could be achieved. Proper problem framing has the potential to improve communication, learning and discussing and developing effective management measures. The study seeks to find new, effective ways of governing complex risks and examines the need for alternative governance measures as well as the need for co-production of knowledge on risks.

Here I will be noting down some of my thoughts that are more-or-less related to the research topic.

Even though the study focuses on oil spill risks, the impacts in terms of climate change cannot be ignored. What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic, so to what extend can the opening of any new oil fields be justified? Greenpeace Norway and Norwegian Nature and Youth organisation have filed a law suit against the Norwegian government: the organisations consider that the government is breaking its own constitutional law, which guarantees every citizen the right to healthy and diverse environment. The court case starts on the 14th of November.

First stop: Vardø

Vardø (Source:

Vardø is the easternmost town in Norway, the only one situated in the polar climate zone with zero summer days: the average temperature remains below +10 °C all along the year.

Originally a fishing village, Vardø has been a town since ca. 1530. The area has been settled since the 800’s. Now with approximately 2000 habitants, the main sources of income include fishing and seafood processing. The importance of tourism is also growing. Offshore oil production and the shipping activities related to the industry could provide jobs and economic growth in Vardø. Having interviewed some of the Vardø municipal council officers, it becomes clear that Vardø is an important point in terms of providing services for possible offshore operations. For example, Vardø Vessel Traffic Service Center monitors ship traffic in Northern Norway and is essential in terms of oil spill risk monitoring as well as response and preparedness.

Vardø Vessel Traffic Service Center

The safety risks in drilling in the Arctic waters seem quite immense in my eyes, especially considering the weather and the darkness in the winter months. Already in Vardø, I feel out slightly out of my element – I am far from home, the darkness arrives when I am still eating my lunch, and the strong wind almost wipes me off my feet. It’s difficult to even imagine the actual conditions of working on an offshore installation.

Vardøhus fortress (Peder Balke, c. 1860)

The locals, however, don’t seem to mind. In fact, the yearly Winter Blues- festival is about to start in the town and the first event is the opening of an art exhibition in the new municipality building. I even meet a fellow Finn, who tells me the weather is pretty nice at the moment, apparently “the grandmothers don’t even close the upper button of their shirts yet”. All the same, I fly back to Oslo with a hefty flu…

Art work by school children in Vardo.

The visit has, however, left me with number of questions spinning in my head. The decision-making largely remains in the hands of national authorities and the industry bodies. Even if oil industry could provide jobs and economic growth in Vardo and around rest of Finnmark, the locals would be the first to suffer the impacts of potential oil spills, ie. contaminated shorelines or destroyed fisheries. How could the local authorities as well as the inhabitants have a meaningful role in decision-making in terms of oil production? How could the possible impacts on the local ways of living be reduced and minimized? How could the local authorities and bodies find improved ways to control the industry activities, including monitoring as well as in terms of response and preparedness activities? And lastly, even though the benefits from natural resource extraction are tempting, are there some alternative ways of ensuring well-being and how could such alternatives be supported?

This leads us to the thinking the risks from a broader perspective! Moving further North in search of oil is risky in many ways, but that’s what’s happening because our society is addicted to oil: oil is needed for everything, not only for energy production. What are the impacts of oil drilling in the far North on the locals, and also in terms of climate change, to the rest of the world, especially the most vulnerable? How could we move away from energy intensive industries, but also from our own energy intensive lifestyles? What are the alternatives?

There are no simple answers, but we it’s high time we all start asking questions.