Western Europe is an area dominated by established democratic governments, backed by strong economies, for the most part. Drawing on refined technical risk analyses, preventive measures, and comprehensive resources for emergency response, countries from Western Europe have managed to mitigate the most prevalent and recurring hazards. Over the centuries, European governments have been successful in reducing the death toll related to natural phenomena. This has been achieved by addressing all three dimensions of the risk triangle—hazards, exposure, and vulnerability. However, cultural and political differences result in subtle, but distinct differences in the context of natural hazard governance. While these differences can be considered a strength in dealing with local hazards under specific contexts, they can complicate effective and coordinated prevention, preparedness, and response measures toward large-scale hazards. This is especially the case with transboundary hazards, the regional response to which has strongly influenced hazard governance in Western Europe. Evolving risk circumstances have resulted in constant adaptations in hazard governance in the region, including local, national, and transboundary arrangements, and a more recent re-localization in the face of new complex threats that has fallen under the umbrella of resilience building.
Natural Hazards Governance in Western Europe
Florian Roth, Timothy Prior, and Marco Käser
Challenges for Natural Hazard and Risk Management in Mountain Regions of Europe
Margreth Keiler and Sven Fuchs
European mountain regions are diverse, from gently rolling hills to high mountain areas, and from low populated rural areas to urban regions or from communities dependent on agricultural productions to hubs of tourist industry. Communities in European mountain regions are threatened by different hazard types: for example floods, landslides, or glacial hazards, mostly in a multi-hazard environment. Due to climate change and socioeconomic developments they are challenged by emerging and spatially as well as temporally highly dynamic risks. Consequently, over decades societies in European mountain ranges developed different hazard and risk management strategies on a national to local level, which are presented below focusing on the European Alps. Until the late 19th century, the paradigm of hazard protection was related to engineering measures, mostly implemented in the catchments, and new authorities responsible for mitigation were founded. From the 19th century, more integrative strategies became prominent, becoming manifest in the 1960s with land-use management strategies targeted at a separation of hazardous areas and areas used for settlement and economic purpose. In research and in the application, the concept of hazard mitigation was step by step replaced by the concept of risk. The concept of risk includes three components (or drivers), apart from hazard analysis also the assessment and evaluation of exposure and vulnerability; thus, it addresses in the management of risk reduction all three components. These three drivers are all dynamic, while the concept of risk itself is thus far a static approach. The dynamic of risk drivers is a result of both climate change and socioeconomic change, leading through different combinations either to an increase or a decrease in risk. Consequently, natural hazard and risk management, defined since the 21st century using the complexity paradigm, should acknowledge such dynamics. Moreover, researchers from different disciplines as well as practitioners have to meet the challenges of sustainable development in the European mountains. Thus, they should consider the effects of dynamics in risk drivers (e.g., increasing exposure, increasing vulnerability, changes in magnitude, and frequency of hazard events), and possible effects on development areas. These challenges, furthermore, can be better met in the future by concepts of risk governance, including but not limited to improved land management strategies and adaptive risk management.
Natural Hazards Governance in Germany
In the Federal Republic of Germany, with its parliamentary system of democratic governance, threats posed by natural hazards are of key national relevance. Storms cause the majority of damage and are the most frequent natural hazard, the greatest economic losses are related to floods, and extreme temperatures such as heatwaves cause the greatest number of fatalities. In 2002 a New Strategy for Protecting the Population in Germany was formulated. In this context, natural hazard governance structures and configurations comprise the entirety of actors, rules and regulations, agreements, processes, and mechanisms that deal with collecting, analyzing, communicating, and managing information related to natural hazards. The federal structure of crisis and disaster management shapes how responsible authorities coordinate and cooperate in the case of a disaster due to natural hazards. It features a vertical structure based on subsidiarity and relies heavily on volunteer work. As a state responsibility, the aversion of threats due to natural hazards encompasses planning and preparedness and the response to disaster. The states have legislative power to create related civil protection policies. The institutional and organizational frameworks and measures for disaster response can, therefore, differ between states. The coordination of state ministries takes place by activating an inter-ministerial crisis task force. District administrators or mayors bear the political responsibility for disaster management and lead local efforts that can include recovery and reconstruction measures. The operationalization of disaster management efforts on local levels follows the principle of subsidiarity, and state laws are implemented by local authorities. Based on this structure and the related institutions and responsibilities, actors from different tiers of government interact in the case of a natural hazard incident, in particular if state or local levels of government are overwhelmed: • states can request assistance from the federal government and its institutions; • states can request assistance from the police forces and authorities of other states; and • if the impact of a disaster exceeds local capacities, the next higher administrative level takes on the coordinating role. Due to the complexity of this federated governance system, the vertical integration of governance structures is important to ensure the effective response to and management of a natural hazard incident. Crisis and disaster management across state borders merges the coordination and communication structures on the federal and state levels into an inter-state crisis management structure. Within this governance structure, private market and civil society actors play important roles within the disaster cycle and its phases of planning and preparedness, response, and recovery/reconstruction, such as flood insurance providers, owners of critical infrastructure, volunteer organizations, and research institutions. • critical infrastructure is a strategic federal policy area in the field of crisis management and is considered a specific protection subject, resulting in particular planning requirements and regulations; • volunteer organizations cooperate within the vertical structure of disaster management; • flood insurance is currently available in Germany to private customers, while coverage is considered low; and • research on natural hazards is undertaken by public and private higher education and research institutions that can form partnerships with governmental institutions.
Real-Time Flash Flood Forecasting
Jonathan J. Gourley and Robert A. Clark III
Flash floods are one of the world’s deadliest and costliest weather-related natural hazards. In the United States alone, they account for an average of approximately 80 fatalities per year. Damages to crops and infrastructure are particularly costly. In 2015 alone, flash floods accounted for over $2 billion of losses; this was nearly half the total cost of damage caused by all weather hazards. Flash floods can be either pluvial or fluvial, but their occurrence is primarily driven by intense rainfall. Predicting the specific locations and times of flash floods requires a multidisciplinary approach because the severity of the impact depends on meteorological factors, surface hydrologic preconditions and controls, spatial patterns of sensitive infrastructure, and the dynamics describing how society is using or occupying the infrastructure. Real-time flash flood forecasting systems rely on the observations and/or forecasts of rainfall, preexisting soil moisture and river-stage states, and geomorphological characteristics of the land surface and subsurface. The design of the forecast systems varies across the world in terms of their forcing, methodology, forecast horizon, and temporal and spatial scales. Their diversity can be attributed at least partially to the availability of observing systems and numerical weather prediction models that provide information at relevant scales regarding the location, timing, and severity of impending flash floods. In the United States, the National Weather Service (NWS) has relied upon the flash flood guidance (FFG) approach for decades. This is an inverse method in which a hydrologic model is run under differing rainfall scenarios until flooding conditions are reached. Forecasters then monitor observations and forecasts of rainfall and issue warnings to the public and local emergency management communities when the rainfall amounts approach or exceed FFG thresholds. This technique has been expanded to other countries throughout the world. Another approach, used in Europe, relies on model forecasts of heavy rainfall, where anomalous conditions are identified through comparison of the forecast cumulative rainfall (in space and time) with a 20-year archive of prior forecasts. Finally, explicit forecasts of flash flooding are generated in real time across the United States based on estimates of rainfall from a national network of weather radar systems.
Multilevel Environmental Governance in the European Union and United States
Managing the risks of climate change partly involves setting and implementing regulatory standards that help to diminish the causes of climate change. This means setting regulatory standards that require businesses to emit fewer pollutants, most notably carbon dioxide. In large federalist systems like the United States and the European Union, this regulation is produced by a variety of institutional structures and policy instruments as well. In the United States, federal regulations often encompass stricter standards with less flexibility; these standards have direct impacts on the relevant regulated interests, but they also influence the content and structure of non-governmental regulations, such as those promulgated by NGOs or industry trade associations. This influential “shadow of hierarchy” can be witnessed in both the U.S. and E.U. However, at a more local level, businesses and governments do not solely operate within the confines of strict, hierarchical regulation. Both sets of organizations join together horizontally to form compacts and regulatory networks that are often characterized more by guidance, soft law and collaborative efforts. While such institutions can be a welcome and effective complement to stricter, hierarchical regulation, such networks require high levels of trust and goal congruence to overcome the potential collective action problems that are inherently possible in such networks. Finally, the conditions under which networks and hierarchies both develop to construct environmental regulatory policies will depend on the dynamics of the policy process as well. Under ordinary circumstances, diverging preferences and collective action problems may create the foundation for more incremental and weaker regulatory standards, whereas an environmental disaster might create a groundswell of support for strict, judicially binding legislation. In this way, policy processes affect the structure of hierarchies and networks and ultimately the shape of regulations designed to mitigate the effects of climate change.