Heed IPCC warning on threat to ecosystems posed by climate change

Global warming will not only increase natural disasters such as torrential rain, but also will affect ecosystems and agricultural products. This issue is directly linked to people’s lives, and appropriate measures must be devised to contain global warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an expert body of the United Nations, has released a report on the impact of global warming. The report points out that higher temperatures increase climate extremes, leading to “some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.”

The IPCC’s past reports have only said that climate change has been affecting nature and human beings. However, by making stronger statements this time, the report can be said to have sent a warning to the international community that the damage will expand unless effective actions are taken.

The report compiles the latest scientific findings by 270 experts from 67 countries, referring to 34,000 academic papers and other materials. It is important to proceed with policy discussions based on such solid scientific grounds.

When temperatures rise, the habitats of organisms change. Changes in the distribution of animals and plants in North America, Europe and elsewhere have been observed. The report says global warming is highly likely to be the cause.

Countries around the world are experiencing phenomena such as water shortages due to drought, poor crop growth and natural disasters. In Asia, heat waves and floods are on the rise, the report says. This trend can also be seen in recent events in Japan.

As many as 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion of the world’s 7.8 billion population live in areas vulnerable to harm including drought, food shortages and rising sea levels, according to the report. The damage directly affects developing countries with weak financial bases, causing massive numbers of refugees and thus destabilizing regional politics.

Although this is a time when international cooperation is needed more than ever, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has deepened the rifts between countries, and the global economy is in turmoil partly due to soaring natural gas prices. A Russian researcher at the IPCC meeting reportedly apologized for the invasion.

Warming on a global scale has no borders. A stable environment is needed in which the world can work together to tackle global warming.

In recent years, the Japanese government has been focused on measures such as developing varieties of crops that are resistant to high temperatures and introducing a system to issue warnings against heatstroke. These efforts should be further strengthened in the future.

In Japan, record-breaking torrential rains are becoming more frequent, and it is increasingly difficult to implement flood control measures by simply building river levees, as was done in the past. It is important for the central government to cooperate with local governments and companies to create a society that is resilient amid global warming.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 2, 2022.