An article by Matt McGrath, BBC News.

The impact of rising temperatures on the world’s food supplies is a key issue for climate experts meeting in Japan. But food security is not just about developing countries. As environment correspondent Matt McGrath reports, a changing climate is one of a number of issues pushing Japan towards a food crisis.

In the historic Ueno Park in the middle of Tokyo, seemingly normal people are earnestly staring at trees.

They are waiting for the first signs of cherry blossom, a spring event of special importance to the Japanese, who will turn out in their thousands to sit under the scented branches and drink themselves squiffy in a custom called Hanami.

But bear hugs from drunken businessmen are a minor threat to the cherries compared to a warming world, according to research.

“The whole food system (in Japan) is not secure at all.” Dr Raquel Moreno Penaranda United Nations University

“There are already reports that the cherry trees are not doing as well as they usually do because the climate is changing,” said long time Tokyo resident Martin Frid, who works on food safety issues for the Consumer’s Union of Japan.

“They are blossoming at different times, there is now more irregularity.”

Because of their cultural significance, the appearance of the blossoms has been recorded in some parts of Japan for over a thousand years.

These records have enabled scientists to work out the impact of global warming on the trees: In recent years they’ve been blossoming about four days earlier than the long term average.

Experts fear that under some warming scenarios, it could be a fortnight earlier by the end of this century.

While Japan could cope with this change, other impacts of rising temperatures may impose more significant costs.

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