Climate change is one of the most complex issues of our time. While the climate has varied throughout history, the accelerated warming trend, documented since the mid-20th century, has caused concern around the world. This unprecedented change is believed to be, with a high degree of probability, the result of human activity. On a global level, the heat-trapping greenhouse gasses emitted through agricultural and industrial activities, have caused temperature rise, glacier retreat, sea level rise, loss of biodiversity, ocean acidification and many other life altering impacts for humans and wildlife alike.
For humans specifically, climate change has led to extreme weather events, environmental hazards to health, stresses to food-producing systems, and altered livelihoods. Climate change is a global problem that affects us all. The capacity to adapt and mitigate these effects vary significantly depending on where we live. Countries that are less industrialized and have lower per capita income levels, when compared to countries that are more industrialized with higher per capita income levels, will likely experience and adapt to the effects of our changing climate in different ways. To understand how developing and developed countries respond to climate change, I will analyze the developed country of Japan and the developing country of China, and compare adaptation and mitigation efforts.
I will assess each country’s policies and laws for adaptation and mitigation, as well institutions that are in place for addressing climate change. Finally, I will provide recommendations on what the countries should do to better address the issue of global warming. Japan and ChinaJapan is an island nation in East Asia with a population of roughly 127 million people. Japan is considered a developed country because of its large economy, high gross domestic product (GDP), highly developed infrastructure, and dependence on modern technology. Japan has a poverty rate of 15.7 percent, a number government officials fear will continue to rise because of economic decline (MOE, 2012).
The climate of Japan is generally temperate, with four distinct seasons. Hourly rains are common across the country. Heavy rains and typhoons often occur between summer and autumn. Japan’s average temperature has risen at a rate of 1.15°C per 100 years, which is higher than the global average of 0.68°C per 100 years (MOE, 2008).
The country has seen increases in extremely warm days, ranging between 25 and 35°C. There has also been an increase in rainfall, resulting in more days with heavy rainfall of 100 mm or more (MOE, 2008). Scientists predict the country’s average temperature will increase by 2.1 to 4.0°C, exceeded the global average of 1.8 to 3.4°C.
Hourly heavy rains are predicted to increase as well (MOE, 2009). Snowfall and snow depth is expected to decrease, while the sea surface temperature is expected to increase. Additionally, sea levels surrounding Japan are expected to rise 5 to 10 cm more than the global average (MOE, 2009).
China is a large nation in East Asia, with a population of 1.4 billion. China is an anomaly among developing countries due to its large economy. In fact, China has the worlds’ second largest economy (Investopedia, 2017). However, the country remains in developing status because of its “high proportion of agriculture and low level of technological innovation”, and its low GDP (Investopedia, 2017). Additionally, China has a high poverty rate, with roughly 17 percent of the country’s residents living on less than $2 per day (Tong, 2016).
Interestingly, China’s poverty rate has declined over time and is expected to continue to decline due to economic reforms to increase residents’ per capita income. The climate in China varies depending on the region since the country is fairly large. Northeast China typically experiences hot summers and very cold winters (Kan, 2011).
The north and central regions experience frequent rainfall, hot summers, and cold winters. The southeast region has frequent rainfall, with semi-tropical summers and cool winters. Flooding is common in the central, southern and western regions (Kan, 2011). Additionally, China in general is prone to earthquakes. China’s annual average air temperature has risen by 0.5 to 0.8°C per 100 years, slightly higher than the global average (Tong, 2016).
Droughts in the northern and northeastern region have become more severe and flooding has intensified in the southern region (Tong, 2016). The warmer temperature change is more significant in western, eastern, and northern China, and most apparent during the winter. Scientists predict the country’s average temperature will continue to increase in the future, further increasing the likelihood of extreme heat and weather events (Tong, 2016).Japan: climatic impacts on health, agriculture, and livelihoods. The increases in heat, wind, and rainfall in Japan is predicted to have negative effects on health, agriculture, and livelihoods. Rice is one of Japan’s most important crops, however global warming is causing rice patty yields to drop and an overall decline in quality. Researchers estimate that for “each 1°C rise in average temperature, rice yield drops by about 10 %”(British Embassy, 2017).
Further, there have also been noticeable declines in yields of all food groups across the agricultural production sector. Fish, which is a staple of the Japanese diets, is expected to decline by as much as 70% by 2100 (British Embassy, 2017). These changes not only put the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen at risk, but also stresses Japan’s food production system.
Food prices have started to rise and will continue to rise as farmers and fishermen adapt to new conditions. Additionally, due to the projected climate change impacts, transmission of vector borne diseases and rates of heat stroke will increase in Japan (MOE, 2009). The change in regional temperatures has lengthened the mating season and increased the geographic range of tiger mosquitoes (MOE, 2009). Tiger mosquitoes are known to carry the dengue virus. Higher incidences of heat stroke are strongly associated with climate change, particularly increases in daytime temperatures. In Japan, annual deaths from heat stroke have consistently grown since 1995 (MOE, 2009). China: climatic impacts on health, agriculture, and livelihoods China will face similar problems that will further be exacerbated by its developing status.
The effects of climate change, such as droughts and high temperatures, have already negatively impacted the agricultural sector and water supply. Farmers have experienced instability in crop yields, as well severely diminished quality of crops (Qin, 2010). Researchers believe that the adverse impacts on agriculture will continue to reduce crop production. Researches also believe that the adverse impacts of climate change on water sources may lead to a water crisis, which will impact the nation’s “social, economic, and political stability to a great extent” (Qin, 2010).
China’s public health is also particularly vulnerable to the projected climate change impacts. In addition to vector-borne diseases and heat stroke, individuals are vulnerable to severe air pollution (Kan, 2011). Outdoor air pollution combined with extreme heat diminishes air quality. This major environmental challenge has increased the country’s morbidity and mortality rate. Further, the effects of extreme weather such as typhoons, floods, blizzards, windstorms, drought, and landslides could cause physical harm and even result death (Kan, 2011). Japan’s Institutions and Policies Japan is the 5th largest contributor of GHG emissions worldwide. In 1989, Japan began its efforts to combat climate change by holding the Meeting of the Council of Ministers for Global Environmental Conservation (Zhou, 2008). The council discussed how the federal government could take part in forming national policies to address environmental and climate change issues (Zhou, 2008).
In 1997, the government establishing the Global Warming Prevention Headquarters (GWPH) which combined multiple ministries to coordinate adaptation and mitigation efforts (Zhou, 2008). The Prime Minister chairs the GWPH, while the agency is vice-chaired by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Minister of Environment, and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. The Prime Minister’s Office created an Advisory Panel on Climate Change that is responsible for planning Japan’s international collaboration on climate change, as well as developing strategies to move the country toward becoming a low-carbon society(Zhou, 2008). The panel includes experts from the industrial sector, NGOs, academia and local governments. The Japan Council for Sustainable Development was also created to act as the multi-stakeholder forum for national and local governments, businesses, and advocacy organizations(Zhou, 2008). The Japanese government takes a bottom-up approach to policy formulation, meaning that measures usually originate from the concerned ministries(Zhou, 2008).
The draft law is elevated to the government councils, which are led by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Environment. They hold public hearings to discuss and revise the law as necessary, before forwarding to the GWPH for finalization and publication(Zhou, 2008). Shortly after the formation of the GWPH, several laws were passed that pushed the needle forward on nationwide climate change measures. The Law Concerning the Promotion of Measures to Cope with Global Warming developed the national framework to deal with global warming(Zhou, 2008).
The Guidelines for Measures to Prevent Global Warming and the Kyoto Protocol Target Achievement Plan was developed to implement measures that would help achieve KP goals. The Renewable Portfolio Standard Law promotes the use renewable energy to generate electricity(Zhou, 2008).China’s Institutions and PoliciesDue to the country’s large population and economic growth, China is the 2nd largest contributor of GHGs in the world. However, the government originally perceived climate change as a scientific issue rather than an issue that could be handled through policy (Zhou, 2008). The country began its efforts to combat climate change after feeling pressure from other nations to reduce its emissions.
As such, China established the National Coordination Committee on Climate Change (NCCCC) to help achieve its targets of 20% reduction of energy intensity and 10% reduction of the emissions of major pollutants (Zhou, 2008). The Committee develops policies, governs negotiations and makes decisions related to emissions and the environment. The Committee is chaired by the State Development and Planning Commission, the agency responsible for managing the country’s macroeconomics (Zhou, 2008). The NCCCC also comprises the ministries that oversee foreign affairs, meteorology, science and technology, and the environment. To further strengthen implementation, the council established two inter-ministerial leading groups, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)and the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). The NDRC coordinates energy conservation and SEPA coordinates emissions reduction (Zhou, 2008). The NDRC is also tasked with coordinating sustainable development. Similar to Japan’s policy formulation process, potential laws originate with a concerned ministry, and are forwarded to the NCCCC for review.
The NCCCC then presents the law to the National People’s Congress for debate. Afterward, the Congress votes, and if the legislation receives 50 percent of the vote, it becomes law (Zhou, 2008). Since the establishment of the NCCCC, the Congress has passed several major climate laws.
The National Climate Change Programme is the first law that acknowledged the importance of addressing climate change, as well as the need to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures (Zhou, 2008). The law covers public awareness on climate change, GHG mitigation, climate change adaptation, research and technology (Zhou, 2008). The Renewable Energy Act details the duties of the government and businesses in the development and utilization of renewable energy. It includes measures relating to mandatory grid connection, differentiated pricing, price management regulation, and tax reliefs (Zhou, 2008). The Energy Conservation Law strengthens energy conservation and promotes the advancement of energy conservation technology. The country’s most recently passed climate change law, the Five?Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development, promotes environmentally sustainable economic growth, and lays out the national framework for a resource- efficient economy, rather than an economy that is resource-intensive (Zhou, 2008).Japan Adaptation MeasuresThe Japanese government has undertaken several adaptation measures to better prepare key sectors for climate change. The Japanese agricultural research institute publishes yearly reports on the impacts of global warming (Sasaki, 2017).
There is a technical support system for agricultural producing areas where the impacts of warming are considered severe. This system includes an examination committee and a team of specialists that provide advice and guidance on adaptation techniques (Sasaki, 2017). The government also provides support for the private sector to develop warming resistant vegetable species, and mechanisms that prevent disorders of agricultural products caused by high temperature (Sasaki, 2017). In the forestry sector, adaptation measures are aimed at ensuring adequate forest cover, reducing deforestation, restoring degraded forest landscape, and sustainability of forest resources.
The Forestry Agency Plan for Extending Service Life of Infrastructure drives the implementation of forest conservation facilities that oversee biodiversity loss and resource use (Sasaki, 2017). Adaptation measures in marine sector are focused on maintaining living aquatic resources that are most at risk due to climate change. Research is being funded to study spawning areas and major fishing grounds. There is also research funding for oceanic condition forecasting, to improve the efficiency of fishing ground prediction and enable adaptive fishery production activities (Sasaki, 2017). China Adaptation MeasuresThe Chinese government has undertaken several adaptation measures to better prepare key sectors for climate change. On the agricultural front, the Preparatory Plan for Disaster Mitigation and Relief helps regions to prepare for natural disasters such as floods and typhoons(Qin, 2010). The Plan arranges for flood prevention and control, and provides emergency relief funds to support post-disaster agricultural production in worst-hit provinces. Water-saving irrigation techniques and farmland water conservancy facilities are actively implemented in medium and large agricultural counties (Qin, 2010).
Dry farming techniques were also widely promoted, such as mulching, drip irrigation under mulch, and water-fertilizer integration. The Action Plan for Forestry to Adapt to Climate Change guides adaptation efforts in the forestry sector. The Plan implements measures aimed at the rectification of nationwide grassland ecological environment, and puts in place grassland grazing bans and a grass-livestock balance system (Qin, 2010). Grassland restoration projects were implemented to establish grassland fences and improve degraded grasslands. In the marine sector, the National Plan for Marine Functional Zones ensures the development and environmental protection of maritime areas. The Plan established the system for monitoring carbon dioxide exchange in offshore sea-air surfaces, and enhances marine disaster observation and prevention (Qin, 2010). Recommendations and Conclusion Climate change is a significant threat to the way of life for everyone around the world.
While both developing and developed countries face similar challenges when trying to adapt, developing countries are particularly vulnerable to impacts. China’s size, for instance, makes adapting to the wide variety of climate risks especially difficult. Its government still faces issues with uniformly addressing adaptation across all provinces.
There is also difficulty with balancing the goal of economic growth. China should reform the NCCCC to provide more coverage for adaptation measures nationwide. The government should also continue to invest in measures that will better prepare the country for climate change. Japan, on the other hand, is on track to become a world leader in adaptation. It should continue to set the standard for being proactive with its policies and projects.
Further, the country should continue to participate in global adaptation efforts. Ultimately, it will take dedicated efforts by governments of both developed and developing countries to ensure livelihoods are maintained.