Our children’s legacyA report published last week by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that global warming will become one of mankind’s biggest challenges in the 21st century. In stark terms the report says that unless proper and timely action is taken the sustainable development of mankind and our very existence could be threatened.
According to the report, the average global temperature will rise by 1.8 to 6.4 degrees Centigrade by the end of this century, causing severe water shortages, drought and heat waves. Also, the Arctic summer sea ice is likely to disappear in the second half of the century, and sea levels are likely to rise by 28-43 centimeters, submerging some island nations in the Pacific Ocean and great cities such as Shanghai and Buenos Aires.
The report clearly points to humans as the main culprits in global warming through the emission of all kinds of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and aerosols. The IPCC concluded that there was a 90-percent certainty that human activities were responsible for the warming of the planet’s surface.
This means that unless the human emission of greenhouse gases is controlled, this planet could face a catastrophic climate change. Signs of abnormal climate changes caused by global warming have already started to appear. This winter, the entire world, including Korea, witnessed unprecedented warm termperatures.
We can no longer ignore global warning as a distant possibility. It is an immediate threat that requires immediate measures. At the recent Davos Forum, it was reported that the world could see an economic loss of up to $250 billion within the next 10 years due to climate changes. The Kyoto Protocol on climate change stipulates that member countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2012.
However, the protocol has lost its effectiveness because the United States, which emits about one-fourth of the world’s greenhouse gases, has withdrawn its support. A new international regime to replace the Kyoto Protocol is urgently needed.
Korea is the world’s 10th-largest greenhouse emitter and we must face our own culpability in damaging the planet. Stepping up our efforts to develop alternative energy sources such as bio-fuel could be one way to reduce our emissions. There is no point talking about how much we love our children if we plan to leave them a planet that’s almost uninhabitable.