Families in western Japan are mourning the loss of nearly 200 people in flooding caused by the most torrential rainfall for decades. Eight million people had to leave their homes.
As if that wasn’t enough, a natural disaster is declared for a heatwave which has pushed temperatures over 41℃. The summer of 2018 has left the people of Japan reeling.
But it’s not only Japan which is being hit by extreme weather events. In Greece, there have been heartbreaking scenes of families who died together trying to flee deadly wildfires near the capital Athens. Our Greenpeace colleagues are working with others to provide emergency supplies, clothing and first aid to people who have lost everything.
July 2018 has been a deadly month, with temperatures hitting records all over the world. Among the regions hit: eastern Canada, across the United States, the Caucasus, and Algeria which experienced what’s believed to be the highest-ever recorded temperature in Africa, 51.3℃. Heat waves also hit China and Korea. There have even been wildfires in the Arctic Circle, Sweden, Canada, and the US.
It’s not just countries in the northern hemisphere. In Australia, which is the middle of winter, Sydney has seen temperatures which are 8℃ higher than is normal for this time of year.
The impact of climate change
These are all signs of normal weather patterns being thrown into chaos, and of a climate system in distress. Climate change is not something we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren. We are experiencing it ourselves, rich and poor countries alike.
The climate sceptics will say this is just a freak year and there have been other freak years. They point out that there was a deadly heatwave in Japan and northern China in the early 1920s; Norway fought forest fires in the Arctic Circle in the 1970s. Extreme weather events have always been with us, they say.
And this is true. But this summer is different – a huge number of unusual weather events occurring one after the other around the world. We know we are warming our planet by burning fossil fuels, and scientists say that a warming planet makes heatwaves much more likely and more extreme. This summer is showing us what a future world could look and feel like. As one climate scientist has said: “We are loading the dice against us, making … heat waves and heavy rain events much more frequent and more intense than they used to be”.
Take action now!
It’s been nearly three decades since the first Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro to address the issue of climate change, and the warnings were around for years before that. Yet still countries and corporations continue to burn the fossil fuels, especially coal, which pump out CO2, the main cause of global warming.
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has gone up by 30% since the 1950s.
We know what is causing this crisis. There is even an international agreement, the Paris Agreement, to do something about it. But instead Japan, which is already the fifth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is planning to build even more coal-fired power plants. It is also promoting the use of coal overseas, and Japanese banks help fund infrastructure projects for coal-burning across southeast Asia.
Nearly half of Japan’s people believed climate change to be a serious problem even before this summer’s floods and heatwaves. The Japanese government must respond to these concerns by abandoning its support for coal and other fossil fuels. It is not just Greenpeace which demands this; it is also the foreign ministry’s official advisory panel on climate change.
Japan must change course and move to 100% renewable energy, which growing numbers of its corporations are calling for. This move must be part of Japan’s obligation to meet its Paris Climate Agreement commitment, along with complete decarbonization of the electricity sector by 2030. 
If we do nothing, we will come to see 2018 not as a freak year, but as the new “normal”.
Hisayo Takada, Energy Project Leader of Greenpeace Japan
While living in New Zealand she first joined Greenpeace Japan as a volunteer, and is now the head of the climate energy team back home in Japan. Her work day starts with the sun at 7am, which she loves as a busy mother working for the energy campaign!