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The juxtaposition of Jan. 3 articles on Japan’s problems meeting its Kyoto Protocol obligations and the upcoming Group of Eight summit (where global warming will feature prominently) got me thinking. What will G-8 dignitaries arriving in Hokkaido be likely to notice on their way to the summit hotel?

First of all, it gets dark awfully early in summer. Japan remains the only developed country without daylight savings time, the adoption of which could have the immediate and almost cost-free impact of reducing electricity usage.

Second, the G-8 motorcades will no doubt be held up at numerous quiet intersections where traffic lights blink 24 hours a day regardless of traffic volumes. Several European countries with population densities equal to Japan’s are experimenting successfully with doing away with all traffic-control mechanisms and letting drivers rely on their common sense instead. Japan could at least consider wider usage of stop signs!

While stopped at traffic lights, diplomats may notice that the nearby hillsides and riverbanks have been paved over, with greenhouse-gas-sequestering native vegetation replaced by one of the most carbon-intensive materials known to man, concrete.

As the envoys arrive at their hotels, they will see ranks of taxis, their engines idling wastefully. And when they check into their rooms, they will find sweets and snacks, each wrapped in multiple layers of energy (and greenhouse-gas) intensive plastic.

steve johnson