Japan’s climate adaptation planning is simple, (1) identify problems from climate change, (2) fix them.
1) Identify Problems:
Climate science is used to identify impacts from climate change. Change in the tightly packed country affects all aspects of Japanese lives, including:
- Reduced yields and lower quality agricultural produce (rice, apples, fish) due to higher temps
- Increases in household spending due to:
* Higher agricultural commodity prices
* Air-conditioning costs
* Expenditures for adaptation measures
- Loss of a sense of season (how interesting! m)
- More air pollution
- Decline of Japanese Beech trees, other native trees, and rare alpine plants
- Changes in ecosystems due to sluggish vertical circulation of lakes
- Reduction in the distribution of cold water fish in freshwater environments
- Increase in heatstroke patients brought on by excessive heat
- Broader distribution of mosquitoes carrying infectious diseases (a serious problem for parents of children. m)
- Water cutoffs due to record low rainfalls
- Severe infrastructure and building damage caused by storm surges
- Inundation (eg, coastal and inland floods) damage from more intense rainfall
Flood problems from climate change in Japan. Source: Wise Adaptation to Climate Change in Japan, here.
2) Fix them:
Japan’s plans to fix the above problems are straight forward: Incorporate adaptation to climate change into existing policy areas and related plans, including land-use plans, city planning, agricultural policies, nature conservation policies and local government environmental policies.
At a general level, early intervention is based on cooperation from politicians and policy integration into civic life. “Early intervention” is preventative, the USA by comparison, tends to punt on preventing predicted climate impacts and related disasters.
Integration of climate change into plans start with standard assessments. These are tools already used by policy makers and planners to assess vulnerabilities to natural disasters. Assess a neighborhood for flood potential, and engineer a solution. Pretty straight forward stuff, and they use the same tools but tweaked to include climate forecasting.
After assessments are made, they follow regular policy making procedures (eg, by committee and then vote). Next, plans are made and passed into law. Finally, the plans are carried out to address the vulnerabilities identified in the assessments: strengthen bridges prone to floods, start beach renourishment programs, plant trees to prevent landslides, build dikes etc, fiddle with new GMO rice strains, etc. All pretty mundane and straight forward stuff.
Challenge for Japan is integration of climate science into all plans. To date, most adaptation efforts have been project based, meaning that once a vulnerable bridge is identified, they re-engineer it and move on. New bridges have yet to incorporate climate adaptation into engineering schematics (earth quakes, however, are mandatory).
Basically (I’m trying to keep this simple, let me know how I can improve), for Japan, adapting to climate change is results oriented, and does not require changes to basic policy structures or massive influxes of tax revenues.
You can blast through this PPT for more information on Japan’s climate adaptation successes through 2009. See also this report from leading climate scientists in Japan.