Japan’s summer this year was the country’s hottest since records began in 1898, according to the weather agency. The average temperature from June to August was 1.64°C higher than the normal level, surpassing the previous record of 1.53°C in 2018. The extreme heat has had various impacts on Japan’s economy and society, both positive and negative.
On the positive side, the hot weather has boosted the demand for air conditioners, fans, beverages, ice cream, and other cooling products. According to a survey by the Japan Electrical Manufacturers’ Association, shipments of air conditioners in July increased by 15.6% year-on-year, reaching a record high of 4.28 million units. The Japan Soft Drink Association also reported that sales of soft drinks in July rose by 9.7% year-on-year, the highest growth rate since 2004.
Another positive effect of the heat is that it has reduced the risk of COVID-19 infections, as people tend to avoid crowded indoor spaces and ventilate their rooms more frequently. The number of new COVID-19 cases in Japan has declined steadily since mid-August, reaching the lowest level since May. The vaccination rate has also increased significantly, reaching over 70% of the population as of September.
However, the negative impacts of the heat outweigh the positive ones. The most serious consequence is the threat to human health and life. According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, more than 71,000 people were taken to hospitals for heatstroke or heat exhaustion from May to August, and 125 of them died. The elderly, children, and outdoor workers were especially vulnerable to the heat.
Another negative impact is the damage to agriculture and fisheries. The high temperatures have caused droughts, crop failures, pest infestations, and fish deaths in many regions. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, rice production is expected to decrease by 7.3% compared to last year, while vegetable production is expected to drop by 10%. The ministry also estimated that the economic loss from the heat-related damage to agriculture and fisheries would amount to about 300 billion yen.
The heat has also affected Japan’s energy supply and demand. The high demand for cooling has increased the electricity consumption, while the low water levels have reduced the output of hydroelectric power plants. As a result, Japan has faced a power shortage in some areas, forcing some utilities to ask customers to conserve electricity or implement rolling blackouts.
The heat wave has also raised concerns about climate change and its long-term implications for Japan’s economy and society. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts, floods, typhoons, and other extreme weather events in Asia. The report also warned that these events could have adverse effects on food security, water resources, health, infrastructure, biodiversity, and human security.
To cope with these challenges, Japan needs to take urgent actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. On the mitigation side, Japan needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by shifting to renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and promoting low-carbon lifestyles. On the adaptation side, Japan needs to enhance its resilience to climate risks by strengthening its disaster prevention and response systems, developing heat-resistant crops and technologies, and improving its public health and social welfare systems.
Japan’s 2023 summer hottest on record is a wake-up call for the country to take climate change seriously and act accordingly. The future of Japan’s economy and society depends on how well it can deal with the heat and its consequences.