Japan Aims to Establish Accurate Greenery Measurements to Determine CO2 Output

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A forest is seen on Yakushima Island in March

The government plans to develop a new method to measure plant resources across the country with the aim of accurately determining Japan’s CO2 absorption levels.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry; the Environment Ministry; and the Forestry Agency are working together on the method, and have been recruiting private companies, universities and research institutes to participate in the project since July. Demonstration tests are expected to begin as early as year-end.

The new method is expected to utilize satellite and ground-based data, as well as information gathered by aircraft via synthetic aperture radar (SAR), based on reflecting radio waves off the Earth. The project team will spend several years examining the optimal combination of measurement data for various landforms, including mountains, forests and rice paddies.

Japan has about 25 million hectares of forests, covering about two-thirds of the country’s total land area. According to a government estimate based on visual observation, the nation currently has about 10 million tons of plant resources.

However, this estimate does not cover the entire country, and Japan’s figures have not been recognized internationally.

Countries often refer to data gleaned by NASA and other independent organizations to calculate their forest coverage. However, the Japanese government believes estimates based on this method are off by as much as 70%, as they do not take into account the nation’s topography and tree species.

Nations with relatively few forest resources have lower estimates of CO2 absorption, meaning Japan could be called upon by the international community to reduce its CO2 emissions by more than necessary.

The government thus aims to expeditiously establish a new measurement method to convey its commitment to carbon neutrality goals.