Norway's climate

Published by Norwegian Environment Agency

Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions have risen 4.2 per cent from 1990. We expect a long-term trend of a rise in total emissions towards 2020, unless new measures are implemented.

Greenhouse gases from human activities are accumulating in the atmosphere and causing global warming. The Herning CHP Plant in Denmark was originally coal-fired, then used natural gas, and is now a green biomass-fuelled power plant. Photo: Peter Rosbjerg,

A glacier in Svalbard viewed from the sea. The polar regions play a vital role in the global climate system, and changes here will have repercussions throughout the world. Photo: Kim Abel,

To cut greenhouse gas emissions in Norway and the world as a whole, we must do more to replace fossil energy with renewables such as wind power. Photo: Windwärts Energie, Flickr

Flooding in Buskerud west of Oslo, autumn 2015. Norway's weather is expected to become wetter as the climate changes, and more frequent and more serious flooding is likely. Photo: Kim Abel,

The mean temperature in Norway is increasing

In recent years, the mean temperature in Norway has generally been higher than normal. The exception was 2010, which was one of the coldest years since 1900.

The highest mean temperature was recorded in 2014 with 2,2 °C above average. Other years with high averages are 1934, 1990 2006 and 2011 and 2015 - with 1.8 °C above average.

In 2016, the temperature was 1,5 °C above average.

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In the Norwegian Arctic, deviations from the average are greater than in the rest of the Norway. The largest deviation measured by Svalbard airport since 1920 was in 2016, when the average annual mean temperature was 6,5 °C above normal.

Higher temperatures lead to less snow and ice.

Forward looking

The annual mean temperature is expected to increase by as much as 2.3-4.6°C by 2100. Temperatures will increase most in winter. The increase will be greatest in northern Norway. Precipitation levels will increase throughout the country, especially in winter. Summer precipitation in eastern and southern Norway is likely to decrease towards the end of the century.

We can already see effects on the Norwegian natural climate

Many changes, caused by climate change, have already been observed in the Norwegian natural environment, and major changes are expected to occur in types of habitat and species composition.

Forward looking

As the climate warms up, several species shift northwards, and new species will therefore reach Norway. Both indigenous species and ecosystems may be negatively affected, especially those that are already vulnerable and threatened. In large parts of the mountains forest cover will develop in the long run.

The growing season will be considerably longer. For many parts of the country, the growing season is expected to last another 1-2 months, and some areas may see it extended by 2-4 months in the period towards 2100. This may provide new opportunities for agriculture, the agricultural sector must, however, also prepare for more plant diseases and insect pests.

A warmer climate will also affect the potential for traditional recreational activities such as cross country-skiing, especially in the lowlands.

More frequent and intense precipitation can cause problems for agriculture and increase erosion. In general, floods are expected to rise in extent, however, there are great local variations. A wetter climate will have an impact on both buildings and infrastructure, and the risks for infrastructure failure will increase. Some areas of Southern and Eastern Norway may have more summer droughts. This may have consequences for agriculture.

We also see signs of acidification in Norwegian waters, caused by increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide. In  the long term this may have serious consequences for organisms with calcareous shells.

Climate change and other pressures

The effects of climate change on Norway’s natural environment cannot be considered in isolation from other factors. Climate change comes in addition to the destruction of habitat, the spreading of alien species, pollution and overuse of natural resources. In some instances, climate change can reinforce the negative consequences of other pressures.

Climate change connected to socio-economic development

Norwegian society has undergone considerable change in the last hundred years. Income from the oil and gas industry has resulted in a considerable increase in living standard in the last thirty to forty years, and is the main reason for Norway’s favorable economic position. Norway has become one of the world’s leading welfare states, and income and consumption levels have changed radically.

At the same time, oil and gas production has been the main cause of the increase in Norway’s carbon dioxide emissions since 1990.

Petroleum activities, transport and industry most important sources

CO2 emissions from petroleum activities, transport and industry are the main culprits in Norway. Other sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Norway are agriculture, shipping, fisheries, heating of households and landfills.

According to figures from Statistics Norway the Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions equalled 53.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 2015.

Emissions from the oil and gas industry increased by 83 per cent since 1990, and emissions from road traffic increased by 33 per cent. However, the emissions from manufacturing industries fell by 39 per cent.

Emissions from agriculture and landfills have also gone down.

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Forward looking

Up to 2020, emissions from the oil and gas industry, industry and road traffic are expected to remain at about the current level. Emissions from the oil and gas industry are expected to decline towards 2030. 

CO2 tax and quota system most important instruments

There is a close relation between economic development, energy use and lifestyle and greenhouse gas emissions. The costs of reducing greenhouse gases can vary considerably from sector to sector. To a large extent the instruments are therefore a compromise between environmental and other interests.

Ninety per cent of emissions comprised by instruments

The CO2 tax introduced in 1991 is Norway’s main instrument in environmental policy.  In addition, a national emissions quota system for parts of the processing industry and the offshore sector, was introduced in 2005 and was expanded from 2013. This means that there are targeted instruments for approximately ninety per cent of Norwegian emissions.

Agriculture and fisheries not covered by instruments

Only agricultural emissions, which constitute approximately eight per cent of the national emissions, and fisheries, which amount to about two per cent of emissions, are not covered by any instruments.