Environmental Issues in Sweden

Over the centuries, our world has faced some problems due to human factors. For instance, in these days, our Mother earth faces a lot of environmental issues such as ozone depletion, desertification, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and disposal of wastes. Those environmental issues have harmful consequences for all living creatures and their ecosystems. Although some countries struggle even more with those problems, some are less impacted. Sweden, which has a population of more than 9.5 million and a high national GDP and considered to be the richest country in Scandinavia, is an example of the countries that are dealing with these problems less.

Since the late 1970s, air quality has been one of the key political issues in Sweden. According to a recent study released by The Lancet, one of the world’s largest scientific journals, in 2015, 9 million people died from pollution-related diseases and according to this study, Sweden is the country with the lowest number of deaths from pollution (The Lancet, 2017). Even though, according to a new study by the Swedish Environmental Health Institute and the University of Umeå, about 7600 people die prematurely each year from exposure to air pollution, especially nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (Ågren, 2018). Every death leads to a loss of around 11 years of life, and the total expense to society for 2015 is projected to be at least SEK 56 billion (€5.3 billion). Although the average amount of air pollution seems to be declining in Sweden, the study indicates that total population exposure to air pollution is approximately the same as in previous surveys. As a solution to this issue, Sweden is actively working to reduce the prevalence of short-lived climate contaminants (SLCPs), and one of the founding partners of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to minimize SLCPs. The push to reduce the existence of SLCPs is complementary to the required efforts to reduce long-lived greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide.

If the most important concern in this country is discussed, one of the most significant environmental problems in Sweden is the impact of the logging industry. In Sweden, 2000 forest-dwelling species have been recorded to be endangered by the World Wildlife Fund, from birds like the white-backed woodpecker to lichen, moss, and fungi species. While Sweden has made progress in improving sustainable timber harvesting, the WWF believes bad practices remain. Another critical environmental problem facing Sweden is the emission caused by chemicals from agricultural sources and waste treatment facilities in the Baltic Sea (Smith, 2015). Baltic Sea pollution is a significant cause of concern for Sweden and its Central European neighbors. Water emissions come from the international shipping industry, the sewage industry, the regional industry, waste treatment plants, the transport sector and agricultural leakage. As a result, the EU Member States decided in 2009 to engage in a pilot project aimed at preserving the Baltic Sea area by fostering a healthier sea and a more stable marine climate (Diaz, 2013).

Global warming, which nearly the entire planet has been attempting to solve for a long time, is one of Sweden’s big issues. In Sweden it has been on average 1.5 degrees warmer relative to the period 1961–1990. Climate change is the most pressing matter of our day. The energy industry is the main contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution while one billion people lack electricity exposure. Given the inextricably related global climate change and access to electricity, it is vital that the energy market is quickly shifting from fossil fuel. (Naturskyddsforeningen, 2018). The Sweden target is to increased greenhouse emissions by 85 percent by 2045 from 1990 rates (SVT, 2019). The 2019 program outlines broad planned aviation and sea-travel cuts. The program includes a carbon tax, tax policy that promotes economic and environmental targets, a green tax, an economic LCA for buildings in 2022, the mandate that all electricity, heating and transport will be carbon free in 2045, and the introduction of private solar energy ventures to make them simpler and cheaper (Regeringskansliet, 2019).

Streetlamps, illuminated signs and street lights improve safety and making buildings visually attractive, but they have also been found to have adverse impacts on people and wildlife, resulting in light pollution. Light pollution causes the night sky to become more diffuse, making it difficult for astronauts to view it. The more illumination we have above us, the easier it becomes to see the starry sky, because if you cannot see the stars, the more daunting it is to reach space. Latest work has shown that there is a potential correlation between light exposure and some illnesses, as the production of melatonin is impaired when people do not get enough illumination during the night. Birds can be mistaken with their direction, bats often do not come out at night because they are so light and in some major cities plants with deformed leaves have been discovered. In 2019, within Mass Star Spotting Experiment, more than 11,000 students, families and other members of the public helped scientists measure light pollution by counting the stars in the sky. Thousands of students, members of outdoor societies, other groups and members of the public were granted the chance to contribute to scientific work on light emissions in the Star-Spotting Project in Sweden and other European countries (Bergman & Söderström, 2020)

To sum up, although Sweden has problems like many countries, they try to minimize the problems with the projects they carry out. Authorities identify issues and produce effective solutions. As it is examined, it seems clear that the environmental policies implemented by Sweden are very effective. It also contributes significantly to the work it carries out with European countries, aside from themselves. The country is taking aggressive steps towards a clean future.

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Yiğit Okur

computer engineer. information security, basketball and hip-hop culture enthusiast