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Efforts must be made to enhance public awareness of climate change

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt makes sense that the Japan Meteorological Agency has sounded the alarm, saying it “recognizes” the current extraordinary weather as a “disaster.” This summer’s heat wave makes us feel that the climate of Japan has been obviously changing.

The temperature in the city of Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, reached a record high of 41.1 C on July 23, renewing the national record for the first time in five years.

The average temperature in July exceeded that of usual years by 2.8 C in eastern Japan, setting a record high since data compilation started in 1946. The average temperature in western Japan was the second highest ever.

According to the agency, the current unusual weather is something that “could not happen even once in 30 years.” As westerlies have meandered further northward than in usual years, the continental Tibetan high-pressure system has prevailed over Japan. Overlapping with the Pacific high-pressure system in the lower atmosphere, it has strengthened warm air and caused the mercury to rise.

Extraordinary phenomena are not limited to heat alone. In heavy rains that wreaked havoc on western Japan, the highest precipitation levels ever recorded occurred at 124 locations, accounting for about 10 percent of observation points throughout the country. Massive flood disasters hit the three prefectures of Okayama, Hiroshima and Ehime.

From the latter half of last week to this week, Typhoon No. 12 moved westward and landed in Mie Prefecture before moving to Kyushu, following an unusual course.

Weather phenomena to which previously reliable rules of thumb do not apply have continued. Preparations are called for.

Health measures imperative

Extreme heat has been reported in various parts of the world, too. In the Arctic of Norway and Finland, the temperature has topped 30 C. A heat wave hit North America, causing a number of people to die in Canada. In California and elsewhere in the United States, wildfires have broken out over extensive areas.

Can it be said that the effects of global warming are now upon us?

Referring to the cause of extreme heat and heat waves, the World Meteorological Organization, for its part, said they “are consistent with what we expect as a result of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide.”

As global warming continues, the frequency of onslaughts of extraordinary weather is said to increase. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts that if the average temperature rises by 1.5 C compared with that in the late 19th century, heavy rains and droughts will happen more often.

The Paris Agreement, which sets an international framework for reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, aims to hold the temperature rise by the end of this century to less than 2 C. To reduce the global volume of such emissions, cooperation among individual countries is indispensable.

Measures to cope with global warming, along with those to reduce gas emissions, have been growing more important. In a relevant domestic move, the Climate Change Adaptation Law was enacted in the ordinary Diet session that ended in July. The law encourages local governments to work out adaptation plans.

It is imperative to secure health measures for residents and ensure their safety in times of disaster. Medium- and long-term subjects, such as changing varieties of agricultural crops to be grown, must be tackled on a priority basis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 3, 2018)Speech



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