This week, the National Expert Council for Climate Adaptation sent a long, and long-due, letter to the Swedish government, summarising the state of the matter that they are experts on, climate adaptation. Unfortunately, this particular mail is not of the romantic kind, despite the rapidly approaching Valentine’s Day. It is rather on the dry side, with no red roses or chocolate anywhere in sight. No secret (admirers) either; the report is out there, free for any concerned citizen to peruse. Just like it takes time to find the right words to pour your heart onto a sheet of paper, though, the Council’s message has been slow in the making. It has taken the experts more than three years to formulate some wise conclusions and recommendations.
So, what is it exactly that they want to convey to the Minister for Climate and the Environment, Annika Strandhäll and her colleagues in the Swedish government?
“Climate adaptation cannot be postponed to the future; we need to take measures now and in earnest to create a robust society adapted to a changing climate and thereby avoid high future costs,” says Lisbeth Schultze, chair of the Council (in Swedish).
This seems like fair advice, given that politicians tend to be vendors of hopes and dreams, whereas dealing with the messy reality of here and now is often less attractive. Climate change mitigation has thus been much more prominent on the political agenda than its less sexy cousin, climate change adaptation.
Of course, some Swedes have been known to joke about welcoming the effects of global warming, at least while in the grips of a bitter-cold winter. Well, the country is indeed getting warmer, and wetter. And those rising sea levels, landslides, forest fires, water shortages and dramatic weather shifts are hardly a joking matter. According to the report, a majority of local politicians believe that their municipalities have already been negatively affected by climate change, one way or another.
This makes me wonder, how come there is no reliable estimate of the total investments necessary to adapt the country to the changing climate as of today. Nor have traditional cost-benefit analyses of the adaptation measures been made. Strange, isn’t it?
Let us hope that the government takes to heart at least some of the concrete suggestions (no less than 170!) from the Council, such as the call for better national governance and a clearer division of responsibilities, or the need for more incentives to actually get the work done.
You’ve got mail, Minister. Now, act on it!
 The Swedish National Expert Council for Climate Adaptation, appointed by the Government for a specified time, is independently responsible for the decisions in its reporting to the government. It consists of members who together have competence in areas including, land-based enterprises, physical planning, health, industry, innovation, climatology, emergency preparedness, environment, public administration, and economics.