The issue of climate change in Sweden has received significant public and political attention and the mitigation of its effects has been high on the agenda of the three latest Governments of Sweden, the former Cabinet of Göran Persson (−2006), the previous Cabinet of Fredrik Reinfeldt (2006–2014) and the current Löfven cabinet (2014–). Sweden aims for an energy supply system with zero net atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Since the beginning of the Quaternary time period approximately 2.5 million years BP (Before Present), Sweden's climate has alternated between glacial periods and interglacial periods. The glacial periods lasted for up to 100,000 years with temperatures possibly 20 °C lower than today's. Colder temperatures resulted in ice sheets covering most or all of Sweden. The interglacial periods were shorter, lasting 10,000–15,000 years. During these periods the climate was similar to today's with extensive forests and ice-free summers. The latest of these glacial periods was the Weichselian glaciation, lasting from about 115,000 years BP until about 11,500 years BP. At its peak 20,000–17,000 years BP, it extended into the northern parts of Germany and Poland. The transition to the current interglacial period was marked by a retreat of the Ice sheets and gradually warmer temperatures. By 6,000–7,000 years BP, the temperature was slightly warmer than today and most of the southern half of the country was covered in deciduous forests. The temperature has fluctuated since then with a weak cooling trend, leading to a relative increase in coniferous tree-cover.
According to the Germanwatch Climate Change Performance Index 2010 Sweden ranked as the second best country after Brazil in addressing greenhouse gas emissions and policy formulation. Sweden has also been ranked first in both the 2014 and 2016 editions of the Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) where Sweden performs well overall and within the topic of climate change performance where it is one of the top developed countries due to the relatively low emissions intensity of the Swedish economy.
For the total carbon dioxide emissions in 2009 (without other Greenhouse gases or land use) Sweden ranked 87th to 83rd top out of 216 countries: 50.56 tonnes (t) below Libya 55.0 t, Serbia 52.3 t and Finland 52.15 t. For the per capita carbon dioxide emissions in 2009, Sweden ranked 82nd to 83rd top out of 216 countries having the same emissions as Ukraine 5.58 tonnes per capita (t/capita). This was only slightly below the carbon dioxide emissions per capita in China 5.83 t/capita (with 80th top position).
In 2000, Sweden ranked seventy sixth out of 185 countries for the per capita greenhouse gas emissions when taking any land use changes into account. Without considering land use changes the country ranked at fifty eighth.
Climate gas emission in 2018 of puclic workers in Sweden was 410,000 tonnes (196,000 workers, ca 2 tonnes pro person). Naturvardsverket encourage to reduce the annual emissions in public sector. In 2019 nine first months Karolinska institutet have reduced 5 % all air travels and 18% Swedish air travels compared to year 2018.
Swedish aircraft greenhouse gas emissions equaled those of Swedish personal car traffic in 2017 according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and a Chalmers University study published 31 May 2019. Total emissions in 2017 was one tonne carbon dioxide equivalent per Swedish person. This is five times the global average.
According to Swedish TV news, the Swedish government supports taxing aviation equal to private car traffic in 2019. Swedish TV news calculated that tax will make travel to Thailand 8,900 Swedish krona more expensive.
Sweden met its EU member-agreed binding renewable 2020 target in 2012.
Sweden has applied policy instruments and measures for climate change mitigation since the 1980s. The instruments used include economic instruments (such as CO
2 tax, subsidies, penalties), legislation, voluntary agreements and a dialogue between the state and business enterprise. The main instruments are described below:
In Sweden, there are so far three different taxes levied on energy products (mainly fossil fuels), namely energy tax, sulphur tax and CO
2 tax. Energy taxation has been used as a policy instrument ever since the oil crisis of the 1970s to support renewable energy and nuclear power. Energy tax was reduced by half in 1991 during the tax reform, simultaneously with the introduction of a CO
2 tax on fossil fuels, with exceptions on ethanol, methanol, other biofuels, peat and wastes.
As one part of the Government's long-term energy policy to reduce GHG emissions, the Swedish government introduced a voluntary international system for trading "green certificates", i.e. the renewable energy certificate system (RECS). With effect from 1 May 2003, RECS intends to encourage and increase the proportion of electricity produced from renewable energy sources. This will be done by payment of a levy in proportion to certain fraction of their electricity during the year. For example, during the first year (2003), users will be required to buy 7.4 per cent of the electricity generated from renewable sources
Since 1991, Sweden started many programs to encourage the use of renewable energy and new technology development, e.g. Energy Policy program (Long and short term programs that focus on ways to increase the supply of renewable electricity, to reduce electricity consumption, and to promote energy efficiency), Green Certificate Scheme (Generators using solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, wave or small hydro are awarded one certificate for each MWh produced, and all consumers are obliged to buy enough certificates to cover a set proportion of their use).
Sweden also shows its leadership in international cooperation and competence on the climate change issues. Sweden actively took part in some international climate policy programs, such as Prototype Carbon Funds (PCF) and Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ)
Public participation is quite important in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses. Without the support of the public, it is impossible to implement a new policy instrument successfully. For example, one cannot anticipate that bio ethanol and bio diesel could be widely consumed without support and understanding from the general population. Therefore, information to raise the level of knowledge concerning the climate issue to the public is necessary.
A Climate Act that targets zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 is in force since January 1st, 2018. After 2045 negative net emissions are targeted. The scope includes compensation projects abroad and emissions trading, but excludes aviation emissions.
The government created a Commission on Oil Independence (Kommissionen för att bryta oljeberoendet i Sverige till år 2020) and in 2006 it proposed the following targets for 2020:
A 2002 survey showed that over 95% of respondents said that the use of tax money for addressing climate change was either "Very important" or "Fairly important". A little over half of the respondents were willing to change the use of hot water, electricity consumption and travel arrangement in order to reduce the impact of climate change. A little under half did not want to decrease internal building temperatures as a means of reducing climate change impact. A201
Forest owners and forestry professionals don't seem to be worried about climate change affecting forests in Sweden. For example, Forest owners in Kronoberg believe that climate change effects are distant and long-term. Stakeholders focus more on personal experience rather than results of how climate change will affect forests in the future. Another forest professional says that nothing they can do today can affect the changes that will happen in the future.
Sweden has socioeconomical advantages that help higher the safety awareness to prevent natural disasters. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) creates guidelines and strategies to help the society adapt to climate change.
As Sweden is affected every year by damaging floods, the MSB maintains and compiles general flood inundation maps, which are used for risk vulnerability analysis, emergency preparedness and in land use planning by municipalities. Flood prevention can include pumping equipment, embankments and dykes, or devices to shut down water supply and sewage systems.
The MSB has created a national information system for fire brigades. The system is found on the Internet and it provides information about how the climate can affect vegetation fire risks. It provides data that helps with prevention and can assist in decision-making.
Because of Sweden's location and the nature of the ground, landslides can affect some areas. The MSB provides general stability mapping for areas susceptible to landslides. The maps show which areas can be affected and which areas are in need of a detailed geotechnical surveys.
Areas where consequences of a storm can be serious, the government grants 40 million Swedish kronor per year for preventions. Municipalities that have preventive measures can apply for subsidy from these allocated funds. A municipality that has been affected by a natural emergency has the right to ask the state for compensation to cover the exceeding costs.
Winter storms Gudrun in 2005 and Per in 2007 in southern Sweden overthrew huge volumes of forest and caused power cuts. Storm Per on 14 January 2007 affected 440,000 electricity users and Gudrun 620,000 customers. The reallocation of capital due to power disruptions during and after storm Per was estimated to be between SEK 1 800 and 3 400 million. The network operators cost was ca SEK 1 400 million, of which SEK 750 million compensation for affected customers. The costs for electricity consumers was estimated to SEK 180–1 800 million.
Gudrun storm hit Sweden on 8 January 2005. Before the wind speeds stopped, they had reached a maximum of 43 m/s. Wind speeds were at their strongest in the Bay of Hanö where they reached hurricane level of 33 m/s with gusts of 42 m/s. Areas like Skåne, Blekinge, Halland, Kronoberg, Gotland, and parts of Jönköping, Kalmar, and Västra Götaland counties were hit with winds reaching 30 m/s or more. Additionally, gusts of winds hit Södermanland coast, Lake Mälaren, Lake Hjälmaren and southern parts of Stockholm County. A total of eleven counties were strongly affected by the storm.
Estimates of about 730,000 users were without electricity the night of 8 January. The storm also damaged distribution networks of Vattenfall, Kreab Öst and other smaller companies. All the electricity damage also affected telephone and computer networks.
Despite the storm occurring in January, the weather at the time was mild which made the need for heat less than usual. District heating systems in urban areas did not suffer from long power cuts to cause problems. However, smaller areas did suffer from heating systems failures.
Millions of trees were torn by the roots and others were cut at the trunk. Trees blocked roads and seized traffic. The lack of frost in the ground caused spruce trees to be vulnerable to the high winds. 75 million cubic meters of forest was felled which is equal to several years of normal felling in the affected areas.
A major problem was telephone systems failure which delayed the clearing of roads and repair of overhead lines.
Nursing homes and elderly care services were also affected as individual safety alarms did not work. People were stranded in their cars on blocked roads. Seven people were killed in accidents and others were injured on the night of 8 January. Other deaths occurred after the storm, for example, one man was killed while attempting to fix his roof. In addition, people suffered from PTSDs.
By the end of the century, Sweden's climate will be different from today's. There are uncertainties regarding the exact scope of the change one of which is the world's political trajectory regarding climate policy.
By the 2080s average temperatures are set to rise by 3–5 °C. The climate in the Mälardalen region will be similar to that of northern France. Winter temperatures are likely to see a greater increase than spring, summer and autumn temperatures. By the end of the century winters could be up to 7 °C warmer than today on average. The Norrland coast will probably be the region that sees the highest increases in temperature. In May 2018 mean temperature was more than in average +5 °C in most Sweden and +2.5 °C in most Europe. In July 2018 mean temperature was more than in average +3-4 °C in most Sweden. In July 2018 Italy, Norway and France sent help to fight the dozens of forest fires in Sweden.
Sweden's future climate is expected to be wetter, with an increase in intense rain events. Most of the increase in precipitation will be during winter and a larger proportion will fall as rain. Summers will be drier and see a reduction in heavy rain events, particularly in the southern parts of Sweden.
Climate models differ on whether Sweden's climate will get windier or not. Some models predict an increase in average wind speed, whilst others predict a decrease. The predictions of one climate model able to resolve wind gusts show an increase in the speed of wind gusts in the future.
The surface temperature of the Baltic Sea will increase as the air temperature increases. Some models predict up to 4 °C increases in surface water temperature. Sea ice cover is expected to decrease and be localized to the northern Gulf of Bothnia by the end on the century. The salinity of the Baltic Sea is predicted to fall in some climate models as a result of increased influx of freshwater from the mainland, though other models differ significantly with some even showing an increase in salinity.