This year gave a preview of the damage in both rich and poor countries from storms and heat waves aggravated by runaway global warming. The crucial question for 2019 and beyond is whether carbon emissions will be reined in to avert scientific projections of even more colossal damage. Just as in a financial crisis, the answer is that they will be sooner or later, but that the choice will be between a hard landing of death and destruction and a soft landing rested on timely climate action.

Japan in 2018 — as was the case with China and India in recent years — illustrates the two prongs of the climate crisis, floods and storms on the one side, and heat waves and drought conditions on the other. Record rains brought floods and landslides to western Japan in early July. Typhoon Jebi followed, wreaking havoc on the Kansai region, exposing the vulnerability of Kansai International Airport, and raising alarm about other airports that are built on artificial islands or coastal landfill, like Chubu Central International Airport in Aichi Prefecture and Tokyo's Haneda airport.

Meanwhile, record-breaking heat claimed dozens of lives: temperatures hit 41.1 degrees in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture — the hottest reading ever in Japan. Record heat threw up a conundrum. Commendable initiatives like the Cool Biz campaign push thermostats higher to reduce energy use.