For five days in a row, the temperatures in Tokyo have been over 35°C (95°F), marking the worst streak of hot weather since measurements started in 1875. Hospitals are reporting admissions of young, healthy people for heatstroke, and the country’s electrical grid is struggling to keep up. To make things even worse, more heat is coming Japan’s way.
Yes, it’s climate change
When the country reported its first temperature of 40.2C in June, it wasn’t a freak occurrence. It wasn’t just one place sizzling while the rest of the country has normal temperatures.
June is usually considered the rainy season for Japan, but the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) declared an end to the rainy season for Tokyo and its surrounding areas on Monday — it’s scorching season now.
Global average temperatures have risen by around 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial era began, as a result of human activity (especially the emissions of fossil fuel gases). Japan has seen worse-than-average warming, with over 2 degrees Celsius. This doesn’t mean that all days are nearly hotter by 2 degrees — global warming makes extreme weather more likely, especially events like heat waves.
As people try to keep themselves reasonably cool, electricity consumption is surging due to all the air conditioning. The government has announced that the worst may be yet to come on this front and has urged people to be mindful of their energy consumption and only use air conditioning “appropriately.”
Prime Minister Kishida said he would make the greatest possible use of nuclear power as long as safety was assured, even as most of Japan’s nuclear plants have been shut down since the March 2011 tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear accident. But it’s not just nuclear power — companies in Japan are also rushing to restart fossil fuel-based power plants that had been shut down. In March, another earthquake in the northeast forced some nuclear power plants to suspend operations, putting even more strain on the electrical grid.
Unfortunately, the worst is likely yet to come as temperature records across Japan are shattered.
Japan isn’t the only place suffering the effects of climate change in 2022. The massive floods in Bangladesh, the heatwaves around the Pakistan-India border, the heat dome in the US, the record temperatures across China and Europe — all of this is what researchers predicted we’ll be seeing if climate change continues unchecked.
The window for action to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which most researchers agree will avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, is still open – but closing fast. Among the most impactful things that each and every one of us can do are eating a more sustainable diet, traveling more sustainably (and avoiding long-distance traveling if possible), and supporting companies and politicians that focus on climate-friendliness and sustainability.