Climate becomes major Swedish election issue after wildfires

Sweden’s wildfires and drought have caused the environment to become the second most important issue after immigration for Swedes before the September 9 general election, a poll showed Thursday.

The heatwave and drought triggered dozens of wildfires, from the south up to the Arctic Circle as the country registered the hottest month of July in two centuries, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).

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The Nordic nation, where summer temperatures are usually closer to 23 Celsius, is not equipped to deal with this kind of natural catastrophe and asked for help from Italy, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Poland and France.

An opinion poll carried out by the Swedish consultancy Demoskop between August 2 and 7 showed that 16 percent of respondents saw the environment as the most important issue, replacing health care on 13 percent.

“It’s a shame that drought and fires had to happen in order for the environment to become a major issue,” Michael Arthursson, secretary general of the Centre party, told the Daily Expressen, which published the poll on Thursday.

According to Swedish officials, around 20,000 hectares of forests were burned.

The government last week announced 1.2 billion kronor (117 million euros, $137 million) in aid to help farmers hit hard by the drought.

Emergency services SOS Alarm said there were seven wildfires across the nation on Thursday. No casualties have been reported so far and foreign firefighters have left the country.

According to the Demoskop poll, immigration is still the most important issue for voters at 23 percent in Swedne which has registered around 400,000 asylum requests since 2012, a record in Europe.

For Sweden’s deputy prime minister Isabella Lovin, climate change and immigration can go hand in hand.

“If we don’t do something about the climate threats then we’re going to have hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing hurricanes, drought and crop failures,” she told Expressen.

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