Climate Change in Japan – Weathering the Storm

Friday, 5 July, 2019: This week sees Japan facing another extreme natural weather event.

More than 1,000 mm of rain has battered Kyushu, an island in the south-west of the country, which is equivalent to the usual rainfall of the entire month of July.

Reports say more than a million residents were ordered to evacuate in Kyushu and two people have lost their lives in the Kiyoshima Prefecture located on the south of the island.

In recent history, climate change in Japan has led to repeated and devastating natural disasters in many forms:

  • from last year’s flooding that left 200 people dead
  • to the 2011 tsunami that left the Fukushima disaster in its wake
  • to the Kobe earthquake of 2015.

A very high peace country, research from the Institute for Economics and Peace shows that Japan has one of the highest coping capacities in the face of humanitarian crises and natural disasters.

Positive Peace provides resilience during shocks

Positive Peace can be used as the basis for empirically measuring a country’s resilience to shocks, including intense weather events, as well as its ability to adapt in the long-term.

It can also be used to measure fragility and help predict the likelihood of conflict, violence and instability.

What is Positive Peace?

Positive Peace is defined as the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. Institutions at a local, regional and global level can mitigate climate-related conflict by creating resiliency programs and managing climate related disputes.

As discussed above, more disputes related to water management are solved cooperatively than through conflict, indicating that changes in climate can be managed well.

Countries with high levels of Positive Peace have:

  • stronger institutions, via well-functioning governments
  • sound business environments
  • equitable distribution of resources
  • high levels of human capital
  • and good relations with neighbours,

All of these indicators influence a country’s ability to respond to stresses induced by climate.

Thus, high Positive Peace countries are more likely to maintain stability, adapt to climate variation, and recover from shocks than those with low levels of Positive Peace.

For instance, the numbers of lives lost from natural disasters between 2005 and 2015 were 13 times larger in low Positive Peace countries than in high Positive Peace countries, a disproportionately high ratio when compared to the distribution of incidents.

Coping capacity and Positive Peace

At a country level, both national environmental performance and the ability to cope with climate-related issues are correlated to better Positive Peace scores.

High Positive Peace countries tend to be more active in pursuing policies that preserve environmental health and ecosystem vitality, as illustrated by the strong correlation between Positive Peace and Environmental Performance Index (EPI) scores.

The EPI evaluates countries based on how close they are to standardised environmental policy goals, with higher scores indicative of better environmental performance.

Of the top 40 Positive Peace countries, 31 ranked within the top 25% of environmental performance scores. Switzerland ranks highest overall in environmental performance, while Burundi ranks the lowest.

In addition to environmental sustainability, high Positive Peace countries are more equipped to cope with changing climate patterns.

Positive Peace scores have a strong positive correlation both with physical infrastructure scores and INFORM Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) scores, indicating that countries with higher Positive Peace levels are more prepared to respond to natural disasters.

Regionally, Europe and North America are most prepared to deal with climate-related stressors.

The Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia-Pacific and Central America and the Caribbean are least prepared to respond to climate disasters as 30% or more of countries in each region have below average levels of Positive Peace and below average performance in either DRR or physical infrastructure.

Central America and the Caribbean is the most vulnerable region in terms of DRR and risks to a single climate hazard, with eight of its 12 measured countries showing below average DRR and above average single climate risk scores.

INFORM Natural Risk Scores evaluate the response capacities of countries at risk of humanitarian crises and natural disasters based on three dimensions:

  • Hazards and Exposure
  • Vulnerability,
  • and Lack of Coping Capacity.

Data drawn from the Hazard & Exposure and Lack of Coping Capacity has been used.

Hazard & Exposure refers to the likelihood and potential impact of various natural and man-made events. The natural hazard category evaluates the risk of earthquake, tsunami, flood, tropical cyclone and drought.

Lack of Coping Capacity refers to the availability of resources that can alleviate the impact of disaster. This dimension includes Disaster Risk Reduction capability.