[VIEWPOINT]Reduce emissions for our sakeAs huge tidal waves rush in, rapidly covering the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of New York City in the United States, people, stunned to see the scene, begin to run away. Like a messenger from hell, the waves follow and swallow them and the largest city of the world’s superpower turns into hell in a few seconds. This is a scene from “The Day After Tomo-rrow,” a film released last year. By coincidence, the situation in the scene is similar to that created by the recent hurricanes that dealt a hard blow to the southern states of the United States.
Hurricane Katrina afflicted tre-mendous damage upon the United States at the end of September and then Hurricane Rita hit the country less than a month later. Fortunately, three million residents were evacuated in advance of Rita and as it weakened sharply to become a tropical storm, the damage was not as much as had been expected.
In a world where the United States can send the robot rover “Sojourner” to stride the surface of Mars as if it were its home, how much would Americans have felt their pride hurt to see bodies floating in their flooded cities in broad daylight?
But are we any different? Considering the damage done by Typhoon Maemi, meaning cicada in Korean, in 2003, just two years ago, we could have surely been in the same situation.
Indeed, Katrina and Maemi showed the formidable power of nature and made us think again how powerless we human beings are before it. And the recurrence of the hurricanes, as Rita followed Katrina, awakened us to the fact that such natural disasters will occur endlessly.
Hurricanes like Katrina and typhoons like Maemi are tropical atmospheric depressions that accompany strong rainstorms. Other than the fact that hurricanes take place in the east of the North Pacific Ocean and typhoons in the west of the North Pacific Ocean, they are identical twins whose developmental process and character are the same.
One attribute of nature is that it constantly seeks to establish equilibrium. The wind is a phenomenon to maintain the equilibrium of atmospheric pressure, and the earth achieves equilibrium of energy through the two axes of wind and the movement of ocean currents.
In the past 100 to 200 years, a rupture has appeared in this equilibrium that previously lasted for 4.6 billion years, since the formation of the planet. In other words, greenhouse gases arising from the development of industrial civilization and an excessive use of fossil fuels cause the atmospheric and sea-surface temperatures to keep rising and the sea levels to get higher. Scientists warn that because of such energy disequilibrium and the subsequent rise in sea levels and water temperatures, abnormal climatic phenomena will happen more frequently.
International efforts to prevent climatic changes have developed to become the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and for specific implementation of the convention, the Kyoto Protocol took effect this February when Russia ratified the pact. But the United States, the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, still refuses to ratify the protocol. China, India and South Korea, which are the 2nd, 5th and 9th largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions respectively, do not make great efforts to reduce their emissions because they are not among the countries compulsorily required to do so. On the other hand, European countries and Japan, where energy consumption is relatively low, are making active efforts to facilitate the implementation of the Kyoto pact and encouraging other countries to participate in their efforts through the introduction of a carbon tax. The world has now become such that climatic changes directly impact the economy.
Indiscriminate and enormous energy consumption as today will clearly worsen the energy disequilibrium, and the imbalance will surely bring more fearsome hurricanes and more frequent typhoons. Our country should actively participate in international efforts to prevent changes in climate and needs to change its way of thinking so that natural energy, like solar or wind power generation, can be rapidly introduced.
The people should also have an environmentally friendly attitude in their daily lives and should no longer make nature angry. This would be a proper response to nature’s warning, like the hurricanes that struck the United States, and the only way to save mankind from total destruction.
* The writer is a professor of earth & environmental science at Sejong University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Jeon Eui-chan