©Mainichi Shinbun

Japan had the abnormally warm winter this year possibly because of global warming. According to Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), average temperatures in Japan were higher in this winter (December to February) than other years and the eastern part of Japan recorded the second highest average temperatures and the northern part recorded the third highest since 1946. Further, daylight hours on the Japan sea side of the eastern part was longest after the second world war, and the volume of snow falling was the second lowest on the Japan sea side of the northern part and the third lowest on the same side of the eastern part since 1961.

For environmentalists or possibly those who are concerned about global warming, this is a bad news. However, the thing is not so simple. Because of the warm winter, some people were happy while others were unhappy. By searching the word, Danto (warm winter), in Google (news), some Japanese were unhappy but others were happy because of Danto. Let me cite two examples.

First, as the volume of snow falling was surprisingly low and warmer weather continued in February, preventing road surface from icing, six local governments of the Suwa area in Nagano could reduce their expenses in snow clearing. Those governments welcomed the small amount of snow falling, saying ‘it is appreciated that we could reduce expenses for snow clearing’ because of their serious fiscal situation. In this February, the Suwa municipal government spent 700,000 yen for snow clearing though its spending was 5.30 million yen in February of last year. In contrast construction companies in Suwa city which contracted snow clearing works complained that they lost most of their works in this winter. According to one construction company, it annually received almost 3 to 4 million yen in the winter season from clearing snows but the amount of money it earned in this winter became a third.

Second, in Tokai area, while ski resorts lost many visitors as they ran short of snow, Higashiyama zoological park in Nagoya, AIchi and Lake Biwa in Shiga had more visitors. Higashiyama zoological park increased visitors by 45,000 compared to those of February of last year. In addition, though yacht schools in Lake Biwa had almost no customers in winter seasons, they had many customers in this winter and many visitors at Lake Biwa enjoyed yachting and wind surfing.

Though it may not be surprising, this abnormally warm winter seems favourable for some people. Clearly, most Japanese might not like the severely cold winter; in Tokyo, perhaps you could often hear people not ‘criticising’ but ‘appraising’ the warm winter. Further, some people seriously desire warmer winter and welcome global warming. Because winter in the northern part of Japan such as Hokkaido is normally very severe, it may be understandable that they hope so. Recognising abnormalities in weather seem thus insufficient to unite people to combat global warming. In order to do so, the Japanese Government must make more efforts to make people understand the necessity to combat global warming even though some of them may no longer enjoy warm winter. Currently, Japanese climate policy has less focused on making people having sufficient understandings of global warming, namely environmental education, and the Government has sought to carry out climate policy without sufficient public understandings of global warming. However, the cooperation and support of people in climate policy and sufficient understandings of global warming and climate policy may be essential in order to unite people to combat global warming and without them the Japanese Government may find difficulties in tackling global warming effectively in the near future.

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