Japan largely threatened by climate change

According to a new report by the WWF, Japan would largely suffer from a full scale climate change. Even as I write these lines, the country is facing the first consequences.

One of the main results of global warming is rising sea levels. A huge problem for a country like Japan where nearly half of the population and industries are located in coastal areas.

Still to the NGO, mitigating climate change in Japan would cost $115 billion (73 billion euros) and would avoid the destruction of assets worth ten times more.

According to their press release :

Millions of Japanese citizens, a trillion in economic assets and some of the country’s most iconic natural features are all at serious risk from climate change, says a new report by WWF. Hokkaido, the province hosting next week’s G8 summit, is even more exposed to certain threats from warming temperatures and rising sea-levels than other parts of Japan.

According to WWF’s report Nippon Changes, Japan’s average annual temperature has risen by 1°C over the past century, increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like heavy rain. Warmer temperatures and changing weather patterns have badly affected climate sensitive sectors like agriculture and severely disrupted species that rely on Japan’s precious ecosystems.

“The science clearly tells us that climate impacts hitting Japan in future will be far worse than the serious disruptions the country is already suffering”, said Gordon Shepherd, Director International Policy at WWF International. “The time window to protect people and nature from these threats is closing rapidly, and next week’s G8 summit should reflect this by agreeing to a mid-term target for emission reductions for industrialised countries of 25 to 40% by 2020.”

The WWF report outlines that Japan’s average annual temperatures are expected to rise by another 2 to 3°C by the end of this century, and by as much as 4°C in Hokkaido. This brings warmer winters and a decrease in the number of frost days, which can facilitate pests and diseases. Summers may become sultry, with the number of hot days projected to triple by 2100 – to 100 days per year.

Sea surface temperatures are projected to warm by 1 to 6°C, increasing the intensity of tropical cyclones by up to 20%. Combined with the effects of rising sea-levels, this can result in massive coastal erosion and flooding. Since 1993 sea-levels along Japan’s coast have already been rising by 5.0 mm annually, and from 1970 to 2003 sea-levels in Hokkaido rose nearly twice as much.

Nippon Changes highlights that a one-meter sea-level rise could wipe out 90% of Japan’s sandy beaches. The costs to safeguard the country from changes of this degree are estimated at US$115 billion, with more than US$1 trillion in assets and millions of people being at risk. About 46% of the population lives in coastal zones, and 47% of all industrial output is produced there.

“Even Japan’s cultural identity is at risk from dangerous change, due to worsening impacts on national icons like the cherry blossom and the Japanese crane, an emblem for longevity and happiness,” said Naoyuki Yamagishi, Head of Climate Change at WWF Japan. “Prime Minister Fukuda must live up to his responsibility as a G8 host and show credible leadership, by pushing an agreement for global emissions to peak and decline no later than within 10 to 15 years.”

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