[VIEWPOINT]U.S. needs to heat up its responseIn the Northern Hemisphere, unusually warm winter atmospheric conditions have been recorded in many places. New York citizens spent the months of November and December without snow for the first time in 129 years. In Germany, where the warmest winter in 500 years has arrived, spring flowers have opened in full bloom. And in southern France, the shores of the Mediterranean are packed with people sunbathing. Because of the spring-like winter weather, such diseases as malaria, which was considered eradicated in the region a long time ago, has reappeared in Italy. The Arctic glacier is melting at a fast speed.
The New York Times on Wednesday carried an article which said “melting ice keeps Arctic map makers busy” because a new chain of islands “encased in the margins of Greenland’s ice sheet are being freed of their age-old bonds.”
The National Center for Atmospheric Research of the United States has recently produced a computer simulation which calculates that the Arctic glacier will melt completely by 2040. The documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth,” which featured former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, warned the world that global warming is a reality that can no longer be evaded.
The key words in the international news this year will be energy security and global warming. The international conflict surrounding the competition to secure gradually dwindling fossil fuel such as oil and natural gas; and the climatic changes caused by global warming and the greenhouse effect, as well as subsequent alternate energy development competition, will decorate the headlines of international news. The same applies to the news nowadays.
Nigeria, where Korean workers have recently been kidnapped by insurgents, is the largest oil producing country in Africa. The country has become a place where oil majors of advanced countries compete against each other. Recently, even China jumped in the competition. Russia and Belarus became estranged because of oil. If not for the enormous amount of oil dollars it receives, it would not be possible for President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to push ahead with “21st century socialism” going against the times and to create a $2 billion “anti-America support fund” in cooperation with Iran.
The world needs 78 million barrels of oil and 270 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. According to the American oil company Exxon Mobile, the demand for oil and gas in 2020 is expected to increase 40 percent above the present level. The fate of China hinges on whether the country can secure enough energy resources for its future. Therefore, China exerts all its effort on energy diplomacy by spending hard-earned dollars from trade profusely in resource-rich African, Central Asian and South American countries.
With the spread of globalization, and with the heightening of the struggle for energy ― especially surrounding fossil fuel ― the global village gradually gets even hotter. Unusual climatic changes take place frequently and new varieties of viruses appear, one after another. Reducing the consumption of fossil fuel and the development of alternate energy also reduces the production of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, which are directly related to the fate of the Earth.
A few days ago, the leaders of 16 East Asian countries adopted the “Cebu Declaration” in the Philippines and decided to concentrate their efforts on the development of alternate energy, such as bio-fuel. The European Union last week set new goals for increasing its consumption of renewable energy and bio-fuel to 20 percent and 10 percent of the total energy consumption respectively by 2020. In doing so, the European countries aim to reduce the volume of greenhouse gas emission in the region by 20 percent from its 1990 level.
The most important variable is the choice of the United States, which consumes a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel. Any globalization that does not include the development of alternate energy sources will end up in catastrophe. There is no guarantee the competition between the United States and China over dwindling natural resources will not lead to a physical conflict.
It has been reported that U.S. President George W. Bush will announce a surprising plan to develop new sources of alternate energy in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday. There is also a rumor that President Bush is considering rejoining the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, from which the United States had earlier withdrawn.
Energy is a field in which the United States can exercise global leadership. Hopefully President Bush will show, for the future of the world, a grand vision that goes beyond the era of oil after overcoming the psychological burden of the Iraq war.
*The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.