What is Happening Now?
Today, we often take note of the terms global warming and climate change. Solutions to tackle these problems on a global scale are urgent and critical, but unfortunately, many of us do not understand it well enough. Ask yourself what you know about climate change. What is happening and why? What will happen in the near future?


What is happening?

たちが暮らす日本も地球も平均気温が年々高くなってきています。下のグラフを見てわかる通り、一時的に気温が下がったとしても、長期的に見れば上昇しているのです。 2016年はこの130年間で最も平均気温が高い年でした。また、2018年は、6~8月の東日本の平均気温が統計開始以来もっとも高くなるなど、全国各地で最高気温が更新されました。埼玉県熊谷市では過去最高の41.1度を記録するなど、日本列島が猛暑に見舞われたことは記憶に新しい人も多いでしょう。地球は温暖化していると言われており、このまま気温が上がり続けると、台風が大型になったり、動植物が絶滅したり、食料不足になったり、疫病が流行ったりすることが懸念されています。




The average temperature in Japan and much of the rest of the world has increased every year. As the graph below presents, the average temperature has increased over the long-term, even though it has temporally decreased. The average global temperature in 2016 was the highest recorded temperature in 130 years. Also, in 2018, the maximum temperature all around Japan was higher than in the past. The average temperature from June to August in East Japan was the highest on record since statistics were kept. We may remember that the recorded maximum temperature of 41.1°C in Kumagaya, Saitama prefecture was broken.
Global warming is serious. If the temperature keeps rising, stronger typhoons, mass extinction, food insecurity and infectious diseases are predicted.

The chart below illustrates three types of scenarios relating to the average rise in surface temperature, dependent upon how much we can reduce CO₂ emissions. Each scenario is largely affected by our current everyday living and developments in our modernized society.


What is the biggest reason for global warming?


Why does global warming occur?




Certain gases in the atmosphere which are called greenhouse gases surround the earth to trap heat. This has maintained a comfortable temperature for living things over a long period of time. However, greenhouse gasses have increased rapidly since the industrial revolution beginning from the 18th century. Greenhouse gases include not only carbon dioxide (CO₂), but also methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and freon in the troposphere. Especially CO₂ powerfully influences global warming.


When do you think you emit too much CO₂ in your daily life?


Who caused global warming?


球温暖化の問題解決は共通の責任であるが、先進国とこれから発展する途上国には責任の重さに違いがあるという「共通だが差異ある責任(Common But Differentiated Responsibilities=CBDR)」という考え方が、1990年代にでてきました。先進国が率先して温室効果ガスの削減を行うほか、途上国に温暖化対策のための資金や技術を提供することが求められています。

By the way, CO₂ emissions rapidly increased after the industrial revolution, and many highly industrialized countries today owe their development to the industrial revolution. Although CO₂ emissions in China are now the second highest in the world, as shown in the chart to the right, emissions per capita are considerably less than Germany and Japan, as well as the United States, Russia and South Korea. In this regard, responsibilities of western countries seem more grave.

Following this situation, the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) has been discussed as an international agenda since the 1990s. This means that all countries are responsible for solving global warming; however, their responsibilities are not equal because of the differences in levels of economic development. Developed countries are required to take the initiative in reducing greenhouse gases and provide funds and technology for addressing global warming in developing countries.


Japan Becoming an Environmentally Developing Nation

境先進国や環境技術立国という言葉は聞きなれた表現かもしれません。たしかにかつての日本はこうした表現に相応しい頑張りようが見られたのかもしれません。しかし、今、国際的なデータを見ると、いつの間にかこれらの言葉にあぐらをかいて温暖化対策などにおいて「環境後進国」となりつつある日本の姿が浮き彫りになります。次に示すのは、ドイツの環境NGO団体German Watchが57ヵ国を比べた国際比較の結果です。


You may already be familiar with the terms, “environmentally advanced nation” or “environmental technology-oriented nation.” It is true that Japan was once a country making efforts in line with such terms. However as of present, when looking at the global data, Japan has become an environmentally developing nation in taking effective measures to tackle global warming. The following chart is taken from an environmental NGO in Germany named the “German Watch” comparing the efforts taken by 57 countries to manage global warming, greenhouse gas and reusable energy. According to this data, Japan stands 44th, 47th and 48th respectively in its international comparison.

This data is more policy oriented, yet according to the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) presented in 2018, the amount of plastic garbage disposed per person annually in Japan is 32 kilograms. This amount places Japan in second place globally in terms of plastic waste disposal. This is unacceptable. What can we do about this situation?

※参考文献:UNEP (2018). SINGLE-USE PLASTICS: A Roadmap for Sustainabilit


How is climate change linked with the Sustainable Development Goals?






In September 2015, the UN general assembly adopted consensus on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which are common global goals framed under the fundamental principle of “No one left behind.”

Goal 13 is specific to climate change. Each goal specifies targets, measures and indicators. The biggest feature of the SDGs is that the 17 goals are mutually interrelated. Global warming has major impacts on other goals making it a critical issue for all. For instance, poverty and hunger (Goal 1 and 2) will become more acute if people cannot harvest crops. Also, children will be at high risk of being denied access to education (Goal 4) if they are forced to migrate. We will also experience a lack of clean water (Goal 6) due to drought. These are just some examples.


Can you think of more examples of specific cases caused by global warming?
Which SDG goals are linked with those cases?