If you think that summer is hot now, wait another five years. Shukan Post (July 22) issues some warnings and predictions, including the terrifying possibility of the mercury eventually climbing to 50 degrees Celsius. Japan's current record high temperature, set in Kumagaya, Saitama on July 23, 2018, and matched in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka on August 17, 2020, is 41.1 degrees.
"Temperature measurements conducted by the Meteorological Agency are calibrated at a height 1.5 meters above a grass surface," says Shuichi Tominaga, an environmental journalist. "But temperatures of city sidewalks are considerably above that, and if reflection of heat waves that create 'heat islands' are taken into account, some places may approach 50 degrees.
"Five to ten years from now, it might very well be common for some areas to exceed 50 degrees," Tominaga added.
A 50-degree day would surely push the total number of citizens seeking treatment for heatstroke at medical facilities beyond the 100,000 mark.
Just as the coronavirus pandemic led to more people working from home, the prospect of hotter summers may impact on actual working hours.
"In countries where temperatures reach 50 degrees, such as Eritrea and Saudi Arabia, people stay in their homes at midday and space their work between mornings and evenings," says Taishi Sugiyama, a research director at Canon's Institute for Global Studies. "A similar workstyle may develop in Japan. At the very least, it will become more common for people to avoid leaving their homes, and work remotely."
Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Research, notes that for every one degree increase in summer average temperature, a household's budget is impacted by an additional 2,000 yen. So from June through August, family outlays rise by an average of 6,000 yen.
"If temperatures reach 50 degrees or higher, we can expect major outlays for air conditioning and power utilization, as well as increased expenditures for medical costs and drugs due to more people going to hospitals," he says. "We can also expect growth in delivery services as more people utilize meal delivery services and do their shopping online."
People's homes themselves may even start to change, with wider propagation of climate-controlled basement rooms that can maintain a constant 15 degrees Celsius year-round.
"The day may come when newly constructed houses feature underground rooms as standard," remarks the aforementioned Tominaga.
Another major concern as temperatures climb will be securing a stable food supply. It may come as a surprise, but farmers in Ibaraki and Saitama, prefectures on Tokyo's periphery, have begun cultivating mangoes, a tropical fruit.
"If higher temperatures continue to move northward so rapidly, we won't be able to keep up," predicts Tominaga. "I suppose that many farm products will suffer from the effects of higher temperatures, with crop failures caused by premature sprouting or invasion by insect pests."
Soybeans and spinach are said to be particularly vulnerable to damage from high temperatures. This portends serious problems for Japan, which already suffers from low self-sufficiency in foodstuffs.
Tominaga points out how sea products are also being affected.
"As sea water becomes increasingly acidic, coral reefs suffer destruction, which negatively impacts the entire ecosystem."
As a result of changing temperatures, harvests of sanma (Pacific saury) and buri (yellowtail amberjack) will decline, and we can expect to see larger catches of flying fish, which thrive in the tropics.
Meanwhile, higher ocean temperatures may be making typhoons more frequent and more powerful. Last year weather watchers were surprised to see the season's first typhoon make landfall in April. And typhoons' paths are also affected, causing some to adopt a meandering course that is more difficult to track.
"The appearance of mega typhoons similar to Typhoon Vera, which devastated Ise Bay and other parts of central Japan in September 1959, killing over 5,000 people, can be anticipated," said Tominaga.
It's already past time for Japan, as an emerging "50-degree nation," to start thinking proactively over measures to deal with a warmer world, the article concludes.© Japan Today