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Climate Change Affecting Japan by City Tech Blogger Monil Pandya

The economic superpower of Japan is home to roughly 127 million people, with 38 million living in the most populated metropolitan area in the world which goes by the name of Tokyo.  Located in the Pacific Ocean off the eastern coast of mainland Asia, Japan, which means “originated from the sun” in native Japanese, is composed of 6,852 islands although the four largest islands, often called the home islands, comprise 97% of the nation’s land area. The climate of Japan is overall temperate but is highly varied throughout the nation, with six different climate zones encompassing the country. Overall however the country is humid, and the more that one travels north, the colder it gets with large amounts of snowfall. The mountain ranges of Chugoku and Shikoku shelter several regions from winds, providing mild weather year-round. As one travels more and more southwards, the level of precipitation by way of rain increases tremendously, with the southern part of the country experiencing a yearly rainy season. In extreme cases, the rainy season transforms in a monsoon season, with typhoons bringing fast winds along with heavy rainfall. Climate change will affect the island nation of Japan in a multitude of means, contrary to the stance which the Japanese government held a mere ten years ago, which ignored all climate change factors and research.

One way in which Japan will be greatly affected is widespread flooding due to the melting of arctic ice caps raising sea levels worldwide and increasing precipitation via rainfall. Although the southern region of Japan is used to widespread flooding, typhoons, and various seismic activities, climate change research shows that new climate developments are nothing to scoff at. As Japan’s farming communities continue to decline as they have in recent years, more and more Japanese citizens have moved into urban centers. These urban centers are prone to widespread and devastating floods, which we have seen earlier in 2018 to a calamitous degree. To further exacerbate this threat, it is estimated that 1.3 million people living along the Japanese coastline will be vulnerable to widespread storm surge flooding within this century.  Thus, climate change can directly lead to large losses of life by way of flooding.

Japan’s primary crop is rice, which has seen a yearly decline in crop yield for the last ten years. This is directly due to the rising in temperatures destroying entire crop yields, making them inedible and unfit to consume. The same can be said of Japan’s next most abundant crop, the soybean. This is a major problem for the nation as only 40% of the country’s food is produced domestically with the rest being imported. This places Japan’s food production as the lowest in the entire industrialized world. This makes the ramifications of rising temperatures incredibly dangerous, as it allows us to peer into a future where Japan cannot even feed its own citizens. Across the entire nation, it is reported that areas that are viable for crops may decrease by a whopping 30-60% between the years 2030 and 2050. One surprisingly positive factor that Japan will see is an increase in rice production in the years 2080-2100 but this change will only come in the northernmost province of Hokkaido. This is one factor that will certainly help to mitigate the risk of starvation, but other measures are necessary.

Several researched solutions to the threat of food shortage and flooding are propositions for drought-resistant crops and the building of flood embankments. These aforementioned crops would be able to survive on less fertilizer and water than normally necessary, which would be a great help to combat the effects of rising temperatures on crops. Flood embankments are essentially walls of earth constructed to be 1-5 meters high, which block off incoming flood waters. While these are surely helpful solutions, the Japanese government would also be keen to do a top-down social reform in which they agree to certain policies which would vastly slow down greenhouse gas production. A sign that Japan is headed in the right direction is their inclusion in the Paris Agreement, which they entered in 2016. The nation must adopt a myriad of adaptive strategies to mitigate the destructive effects that climate change will have. From restricting what land can be used by corporations to restrict the amount of carbon dioxide-rich emissions that vehicles and factories alike in Japan give off at an alarming rate, there are many measures that Japan can take in order to minimize the effects of climate change on their country.

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