Sweden ‘must act on climate’

Sweden will be badly hit by the effects of climate change, and should act without delay to adapt to the new reality. That was the stark message in a report presented to the government on Monday.

Sweden 'must act on climate'
Photo: Patrick Trägårdh/Imagebank Sweden

The author of the report, Bengt Holgersson, painted a depressing picture of the future when he spoke to journalists in Stockholm.

Sweden will see more heatwaves, with diseases spreading more rapidly as a result. Reindeer herding will become more difficult as temperatures rise.

On the plus side, forests will grow more quickly, thereby becoming more profitable. This, however, could lead to increased conflict in northern Sweden between forest owners and reindeer herders.

“There is naturally great uncertainty in our calculations, but we want to show how important it is to take steps now to prevent Sweden from being hit unnecessarily hard,” Holgersson said.

Every county should appoint a climate adaptation committee, the report proposes. These committees would try to identify how climate change will affect the county in question, and propose ways to deal with the consequences.

Holgersson also wants a new national agency, the Institute for Climate Research to be created from parts of existing government agencies, such as weather service SMHI.

One major effect of climate change would be an increase in erosion in large parts of the country, particularly along the coasts. Around 1,800 km of coast is in the danger zone, with 150,000 properties at risk of losing the ground from under their foundations. A further 150,000 homes are at risk of being affected by landslides.

Increased rainfall would put pressure on drains, and would lead to lower water quality. This will require more advanced water purification technology, Holgersson argues.

The winners from climate change will be forestry and agriculture. By the end of the century the growing season in Sweden will be three months longer than at present. The Mälardalen region near Stockholm will in one hundred years have roughly the same average temperature as northern France today, although rainfall in Sweden will be higher.

Forestry in Sweden, while benefiting on balance from the temperature changes, will experience increased wind damage. This will be due in part to damper conditions and younger trees. Holgersson said it was so far unclear whether Sweden would be windier in the future.