Lead fight against global warming amid rising threat of extreme weather

In recent years, natural disasters such as large-scale forest fires and floods have occurred frequently around the world, and the threat of global warming has become a reality. Measures to stop global warming must be strengthened.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an expert body of the United Nations, has released a report on global warming. Scientists and others representing each country reviewed more than 14,000 academic papers and compiled the report. It is an important document that reflects the latest scientific findings.

The previous report in 2013 pointed out that human activities are very likely to be the main cause of global warming. This time, the report, going one step further, determined that it is “unequivocal” that human influence has caused global warming. This needs to be taken seriously.

The Paris Agreement, an international framework for combating global warming, aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to less than 2 C, preferably less than 1.5 C, compared to levels in the pre-industrial era.

The average global temperature has already risen by 1 C. The latest IPCC report made projections of a future rise in global temperature based on greenhouse gas emissions under five scenarios. In all cases, the rise in temperature over the next 20 years is expected to reach 0.5 C or higher, making it difficult to achieve the 1.5 C target.

Advances in research have also made it possible to predict the impact on individual regions. The report said that extremely high temperatures and heavy rains will increase in East Asia. Japan has already been hit by a series of extreme heat waves and torrential rains. It is worrisome that the situation will further worsen in the future.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has proposed a policy of a “carbon-neutral” society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Measures for that purpose must be implemented as soon as possible.

The United States and Europe also have high reduction targets. The momentum for strengthening measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be boosted ahead of the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to be held in Britain in November.

On the other hand, emerging and developing countries, which expect economic growth in the future, have been cautious about drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is essential to devise measures with the involvement of these countries. In particular, COP26 should urge China, which has the largest emissions in the world, to take the initiative in reducing emissions.

To drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, changes such as the increased use of renewable energy and the development of large-scale electric storage devices are essential. Corporate activities and the lifestyles of individuals will also have to undergo major changes.

Japan also needs to focus on research and development of environmental technologies and help other countries by using such technologies. The government should play a leading role in international efforts to combat global warming.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 12, 2021.