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80% of Japan's major local bodies feel impact from global warming: Mainichi poll

The heart of Tokyo dotted with skyscrapers is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on Aug. 9, 2020. In the center background lies the Imperial Palace. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- About 80% of major local governments in Japan covered by a Mainichi Shimbun survey said they experienced the apparent impact of global warming over the past five years, including damage from abnormal climate and adverse effects on the agricultural sector.

    Meanwhile, only a little under 40% of responding local governments have developed hubs for promoting damage mitigation measures as stipulated under Japan's Climate Change Adaptation Act, the poll has shown.

    The written survey conducted in September covered Japan's 47 prefectures and 20 ordinance-designated cities, to which all local bodies responded. It also emerged from the questionnaire that many local bodies are seeing the impact of the spread of the coronavirus on their projects related to efforts to reduce damage from global warming, raising concerns that those countermeasures could be pushed back.

    When asked whether the local bodies suffered effects thought to be related to global warming between fiscal 2015 and 2019, 38 prefectures and 17 cities, or 82.1%, said they experienced some kind of effects. By category, 32 prefectures and 10 cities, or 62.7%, said they observed various impacts on the agricultural, forestry and fisheries industries, while 30 prefectures and 16 cities, or 68.7%, said they suffered from the effects of natural disasters. Twenty-six prefectures and 10 cities, or 53.7%, cited impacts on health from global warming, such as an increase in heatstroke cases.

    Steps taken to avoid and mitigate damage from global warming are called "adaptation measures." In recent years, more and more regions in Japan confirmed the repercussions of greenhouse warming, leading to the enforcement of the Climate Change Adaptation Act in December 2018. Under the law, which is aimed at promoting adaptation measures, prefectural and municipal governments are called on to endeavor to establish systems that will function as "local climate change adaptation centers" to promote meticulous adaptation measures in their local areas.

    According to the survey, 24 prefectures and one municipality, or 37.3%, said they had developed their local adaptation centers, while 11 prefectures and 17 cities, or 41.8%, said they had either no prospects or plans to establish such hubs. Eleven prefectures and two cities, or 19.4%, said they had worked out a policy to prepare such bases. One prefecture withheld a response to the question.

    With regards to the effects of the coronavirus crisis on their measures to mitigate damage by climate change, 21 prefectures and one city, or 32.8%, said they experienced various impacts from the pandemic. Iwate Prefecture in northeast Japan said there were disruptions to hearings with other prefectures, while Fukushima Prefecture also in the northeast said it was suffering a manpower shortage to tackle global warming issues as they have had to deal with infectious diseases and other measures. Kochi Prefecture in western Japan said it refrained from holding events for local residents including exhibitions. Among the local bodies that have already set up their local climate change adaptation centers, a majority, or 13 bodies, said they experienced repercussions from the pandemic.

    In creating the survey questions and analyzing the responses, the Mainichi Shimbun sought cooperation from the Center for Climate Change Adaptation (CCCA) of the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, whose tasks include collecting information on the impact of global warming nationwide and providing advice to local bodies.

    A CCCA official commented, "Unless each local body has their own climate change adaptation centers, it would be difficult to promote adaptation measures in accordance with situations faced by each region. Such centers also play a major role in spreading the concept of adaptation across various departments of local bodies. It is also essential to make those centers function efficiently, not just to establish them."

    (Japanese original by Ryo Watanabe, Science & Environment News Department)

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