Tackling climate issues is key to the next decade

The importance of adaptation

Global warming occurs when greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and other pollutants in the atmosphere trap radiation reflected from the Earth’s surface. Carbon dioxide, in particular, began to increase significantly after the Industrial Revolution, which took place between the late 18th century and the 19th century.

Average global temperatures are already 1 degree Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, and unless the world takes concrete action, average temperatures are expected to rise by around 3 or 4 degrees by the end of the century.

In October 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report that called on the world to keep average global temperatures no more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial, instead of the established target of 2 degrees.

Rajib Shaw, a professor at Keio University and one of the report’s lead authors, says the 0.5 degree difference is crucial for many climate-related issues.

Missing the 1.5 degree target, he says, will mean the number of people exposed to heatwaves will more than double from 14% to 37% of the world’s population, marine fish stocks will decline 1.5 million tonnes and the loss of wildlife, including vertebrates and plants, will double.

“I believe the next 10 years will see extreme levels of climate change and disaster risk,” says Shaw. “Extreme, however, means that this usually does not happen and therefore these risks will no longer be ‘extreme’. Extreme events will be the new normal.

The IPCC report also states that the world has until 2030 to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by around 45% from 2010 levels and reach net zero by 2050 to stop global warming at 1.5 degrees. . In December, however, it was revealed that global emissions are still on the rise; Carbon dioxide emissions in 2019 are expected to increase by 0.6% compared to 2018, reaching a record level of 36.8 billion tonnes.

Sixty-five countries have so far committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Big emitters like Japan, however, have not.

“Even if countries pledge to stop emitting carbon dioxide, we cannot change the current situation immediately. It took decades to get to where we are now, so it will take time to change the climate again,” says Shaw. “That’s why mitigation is important, but adaptation is just as important because we have to live with this current state.”

At the United Nations conference in December, Japan joined a list of countries that received the satirical ‘Fossil of the Day’ award from an international environmental organization after failing to commit to ending dependence on country to coal-fired electricity generation.

António Guterres has called on countries to stop building new coal-fired power plants from 2020, criticizing the Asia region’s “coal addiction”.

Japan is the only Group of Seven country still building new factories, although Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi at least admits he is aware of the problem.

“I am aware of the international criticism of Japan’s coal policy and I feel it is getting stronger, especially against the backdrop of the global trend of financial institutions withdrawing from thermal power. coal,” Koizumi told reporters at a press conference in December. “Even though Japan cannot come up with a more positive coal policy at this time, I want to emphasize that we acknowledge the criticisms and will continue to make efforts (to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels).”

While Japan has stopped short of promising net zero carbon emissions by 2050, a few local governments have started making decarbonization declarations. As of January 20, 51 municipalities, including Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka and Iwate prefectures, as well as cities such as Kyoto, Kagoshima and Ikoma in Nara, have committed to net zero carbon emissions over the next 30 years.

The Ministry of the Environment estimates that the total population of these municipalities is around 49 million, or around 39% of the whole country.

“Zero-carbon cities are growing rapidly all over Japan,” Koizumi said at the December press conference. “The awakening of local governments is expected to continue, eventually leading Japan to introduce more renewable energy and become a driving force for the country to realize a low-carbon society.”

Teresa H. Sadler