The Japanese Government's Position on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

I don't post nearly enough on this blog, sadly. But in an effort to do more I'm copying over a post I sent to the NBR Japan Forum, just to keep a record of it and invite others to comment, should they wish to do so.

Stop Global Warming (MoE, 2015)

Members interested in the Japanese government's policies with respect to climate change adaptation and mitigation may be interested in the following.

1. National Plan for Adaptation to the Impacts of Climate Change (MoE, 2015).

This document lays out the GOJ position with respect to adaptation measures in the lead-up to the UNFCCC Paris Conference in December 2015.

2. Annual Report on the Environment in Japan (MoE, 2016).

This document gives a brief overview of the post-Paris position with respect to climate change adaptation, which was passed into Japanese law in November 2016. There are other environmental issues covered in the document, but the emphasis is on climate change adaptation.

3. Stop Global Warming: Approach to Mitigation and Adaptation (MoE, 2015).

This document is more for public consumption and gives an overview of the Japanese government's position on climate change mitigation and adaptation. It also presents some information on impacts already being observed in Japan and practical measures already in train for mitigation and adaptation.

The above is just a snapshot of what the GOJ is involved in. The important issue to take home from this are that the GOJ accepts the IPCC AR5 and is mainstreaming adaptation and mitigation into legislation and policy. Other documents show that the GOJ accepts that climate change is causing observable and measurable changes in Japan itself that are already having economic, social and cultural impacts, mostly negative, and that these are likely to accelerate in the future. These include profound changes to agricultural, mountain, forest, hydrological, and marine systems. Observable changes that the GOJ currently cite in its official literature are: beech forest decline, pine-tree decay, and decrease in Alpine flora; eutrophication of freshwater systems and reduction of fish distribution; coral bleaching and northward migration of marine species; and earlier leafing and later autumn foliage in deciduous trees. Reported impacts on human-environmental systems include reduced rice yield and quality; reduced fruit quality (all 47 prefectures); drinking water restrictions, increased groundwater usage, and land subsidence; coastal damage, and inland flood and crop damage; increased mortality (heat-stress and -stroke); increased distribution of disease transmitting mosquitos and bacteria; impacts on economic and cultural life, etc. 

It is important to understand that the most profound changes to Earth systems are being experienced in developing countries, and there is currently less impact on daily life in developed societies. This is because these countries, Japan one of them, have been able to insulate themselves from many of the risks that are currently presenting with a vengeance in developing countries, and they are normally located at latitudes which have thus far experienced the least dramatic environmental change. This is seductive for those people in rich developed countries who, for various reasons, have an interest in believing that climate change poses few risks or challenges, or may even be advantageous.

However, great changes are on the way in Earth systems as climate change progresses, particularly if the 2 degrees C average surface temperature rise that Paris promises not to breach, is in fact breached. And so far things look like that temperature rise will be breached this century. The significant issue in this respect is that, in addition to the direct impacts that come with the rise in average surface temperatures that will continue to occur without effective mitigation, climate change is a known threat multiplier (this is the term used by the US Department of Defense, which assumes climate change to be a significant national security risk). That is to say, climate change increases secondary and tertiary level risks in other domains, such as global political instability that comes with increased inequality, disease, population displacement and property destruction.

The 'choice', if one can use that word, is not between getting one's tootsies wet or a 90m sea level rise in the event of the permafrost releasing stored frozen methane, the former of which requires no adaptation and the latter also, because there is nothing that would save us. In all likelihood what will occur is something in between, which we do have a need and potential to mitigate and adapt to. IPCC AR5 projects a slightly higher sea level rise than AR4, which projects a slightly higher sea level rise than AR3. It is clear that as climate science advances, and dominant elites continue to largely ignore it as 'alarmist', so the prognosis gets worse. Some of the most reputable reports in high quality journals now accept that a 2m+ sea level rise may be possible within the 21st century, which is almost certainly within the projected life expectancy of my daughter.

Unfortunately for all of us, unlike God, climate change does not disappear once one chooses not to believe in it. Whether to 'believe' is immaterial and irrelevant to what is actually occurring. Not believing in anthropogenic climate change is like choosing not to believe in gravity. One can do so, but it is clearly idiotic to make such a choice, and is potentially an act of self-harm. The Japanese government accepts that climate change is occurring and is already mainstreaming adaptation and mitigation. I urge that the rest of us get on with doing the same.

Best wishes,



IPCC AR5 WG1 SPM is available here:

IPCC AR4 WG1 SPM is available here:

WGII and WGIII can be accessed by clicking through on the above pages.