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Editorial: Fight against climate change is not someone else’s problem

  • March 2, 2022
  • , The Asahi Shimbun
  • English Press

Global warming has advanced to the point where the question is no longer how to stop it, but to what extent it can be mitigated.


In the latest Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) published Feb. 28, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that extensive damage has already been done, canceling out steps taken to date if nothing changes. Every person on the planet needs to understand that the urgency of the crisis affects their lives, too, and act accordingly.


The IPCC is currently working on an overview of the state of knowledge on the science of climate change, what is known as the Synthesis Report of AR6, which is due out in September.


Last summer, a report from its Working Group 1 concluded there was no doubt about the impact of human activity on global warming, and projected that by 2040, the global temperature will have risen by 1.5 degrees from before the Industrial Revolution.


In the latest report, Working Group 2 analyzed the effects of climate change and adaptation measures. Compiled by 270 scientists who closely reviewed thousands of studies on the subject, the report constitutes the latest scientific findings.  


Ecosystems, food production and health and infrastructure have already sustained considerable damage. Further damage can be contained to some extent if the temperature rise is kept to around 1.5 degrees, but it will not be possible to eliminate all adverse effects, according to the report.


The situation has deteriorated rapidly since the last IPCC Fifth Assessment Report of 2014 pointed out that climate change was “affecting nature and the human system.”


The effects are first felt in high-risk areas with insufficient food supply and weak basic infrastructure for daily life. Already, between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion people around the world fall into that category, and what happens in the next 10 years is deemed to be crucial. 


Still, we suspect some policy leaders keep postponing fundamental measures because they don’t expect a catastrophe during their lifetimes or while they hold positions of responsibility.


They call for zero carbon emissions, but the pleas don’t come across as driven by an unwavering resolve born out of a deep sense of crisis.

To be carbon-free, an obvious solution is to rely more on renewable energy sources, and this really needs to be speeded up.


Japan’s immediate power needs must not be used as an excuse for continuing to depend on high-CO2-emission coal-fired thermal power generation or nuclear power generation that could cause major disasters.


The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Glasgow last autumn, agreed to keep striving to contain the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, as well as phased reduction of coal-fired power generation.


The agreement could not have been more conservative. But it had to take into account that developing nations need time to put their carbon reduction measures together.


Japan has an obligation to refrain from taking advantage of this situation to prolong the life of its coal-burning power industry. To do so would be tantamount to rejecting its responsibility as an advanced nation, and will surely invite the condemnation of future generations of Japanese citizens.


Armed conflicts and other world events change the global energy situation. But we must not lose sight of the big picture by looking only at the situation at hand.


Obviously, every consideration should be given to people who won’t be able to bear the burden. But everyone is also being asked to pay their share of the sacrifice.


–The Asahi Shimbun, March 2 

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