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Climate Adaptation and Earth Commission Discussed at International Gatherings in Japan

On October 3 and 4, 2019, the National Institute of Environmental Studies (NIES) hosted a session and an international seminar on climate adaptation. Amy Luers, Executive Director of Future Earth, was invited as a keynote speaker to both events. Luers shared her personal experiences and spoke about the recent activities of Future Earth.

The first session was held at the Tsukuba Conference, an inaugural conference “for future shapers—talented young leaders from industry, government and academia worldwide.” Titled “Climate Change Adaptation — Promoting Regional Activity,” the session explored regional adaptation measures, stakeholder collaboration, and knowledge-sharing between regions with specific case studies.

Luers opened by sharing her experience working in Nicaragua to build drinking water systems, and how for her, it highlighted the importance of invisible connections among people in building resilient communities. She connected this experience to the challenge of making progress on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, and how important these invisible connections are to building resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate variability and change at a global scale. She noted that in many policies, investments, and metrics, the focus is on the nodes (e.g. people, places, sectors) in a system rather than on the links among the nodes. She then expanded on the work of Future Earth, highlighting its focus on the connections among the people, places, and sectors exploring questions of resilience, adaptation, and vulnerability across scales.

The short presentations that followed focused on various issues regarding climate change adaptation in a regional scale. Daichi Suto from the Ministry of Environment Japan gave an introduction to climate change adaptation policies in the country, which constitutes a National Adaptation Plan (NAP), 5-year climate change impact assessments, and Local Adaptation Plans. Kazutaka Oka from NIES followed up with an explanation of the Center for Climate Change Adaptation in NIES, which runs the nationally-appointed Climate Change Adaptation Information Platform (A-PLAT) and provides technical support to local governments towards adaptation. Hideo Shiogama, also from NIES, explained his research which looked into the probability that human influence through climate change has increased extreme weather events. His research team found that the probability of individual extreme weather events were increased due to anthropogenic global warming.

Takuya Togawa, also from NIES, gave an example of localizing the expected effects of climate change, through an impact chain analysis, followed by a local seminar or workshop, followed by planning and decision making for local adaptation. Finally, Brian Johnson presented on a case study, where a Participatory Watershed Land-use Management (PWLM) approach was implemented in the Philippines. In the PWLM approach, there are four steps consisting of: scenario development, risk assessment, identification of countermeasures, and climate-resilient land-use planning. Both Johnson and Togawa’s presentations were specific case studies that introduced a new methodology for considering climate adaptation.

On October 4, the Future Earth Japan Hub, along with NIES Climate Change Center for Adaptation, organized a Future Earth International Seminar at NIES. Luers gave a keynote speech where she spoke on two topics: climate adaptation and global activities of Future Earth. Following up from the previous day’s presentation, Luers once again emphasized the need to focus on flow, connections, and links among nodes.

She raised questions for discussion. Luers noted that when looking at questions of climate adaptation, resilience, and vulnerability, the links among places and sectors (nodes) are a missing gap. Is there a role for researchers to fill that gap? More specifically, is there a role for the Future Earth research networks to co-develop a global system to track, evaluate, mitigate, and govern climate adaptation, resilience, and vulnerability?

She also introduced recent activities of Future Earth’s Global Systemic Challenges that are cross-cutting throughout the Global Research Projects and Knowledge-Action Networks, and that the Future Earth community work on collectively. The first Global Systemic Challenge on Earth Targets asks, “What can we as a scientific community do to provide the integrated science basis for earth systems?” It is also comprised of the Earth Commission, which will undertake a two-year holistic evaluation of Earth’s planetary system. The second Global Systemic Challenge is Societal Transformations for Climate Change.

Similar to the previous day, a few presenters made short presentations on what research they are undertaking in relation to climate adaptation or Future Earth activities. Firstly, Tomohiro Tasaki, presented on waste management in the era of population onus. Population onus is a combination of many factors such as population decrease, decrease in population density, increase in elderly population, etc. Population onus will affect municipalities’ waste management infrastructure in the future such as having less money, less human resources, and excess infrastructure..

Kiyoshi Takahashi presented on Future Earth-related research activities. Takahashi and his team conducted research on climate policy and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and found that each SDG needs to be achieved, but also the need to think of interrelationship among them, as there may be a trade off involved.

Peraphan Jittrapirom presented on the Global Carbon Project, a Global Research Project of Future Earth, and its activities in the International Project Office (IPO) of Tsukuba. The Global Carbon Project coordinates international research into the Earth’s carbon cycle, and announces the Global Carbon Budget, Global Methane Budget, and Global Nitrous Budget. The IPO office at NIES looks into urban and regional carbon management, such as conducting integrated smart city design and analysis.

The discussion that followed touched on topics such as use of network analysis on social media to capture the Network Effect, transdisciplinary Future Earth members working in art or design, and what key issues are underdeveloped at a global scale.

Overall, both sessions provided a great opportunity to discuss climate change adaptation from multiple perspectives and to introduce activities of Future Earth. At the Tsukuba Conference, participants heard from the perspectives of policy making, information platform creation, and specific case studies. On October 4, participants learned about the various activities related to climate change adaptation and/or Future Earth.


November 26, 2019


Yuki Hashimoto



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