[Outlook]For our children, we must act now

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[Outlook]For our children, we must act now

We hope humans will live on forever, without disasters or problems. However, we are facing a crisis. We are worried how long our precious Earth will be able to endure the current problems. Natural disasters hit the Earth about once every 10 days all around the world. That shows that the side effects of climate changes, such as global warming, have reached the limit. The demand for energy is increasing. Along with that rise, the air and water are getting more polluted and the threat of earthquakes and tsunamis is increasing.
Meanwhile, we have many other issues, such as North Korea’s nuclear crisis, a free trade agreement with the United States and, particularly, the current political chaos ahead of the presidential election in December. Because we are inundated by these problems, it feels like we have little room to worry about natural disasters. However, it would be truly ignorant not to look into the future.
The Earth, where our descendants will live, is being ruined day by day. If we ignore the seriousness of the issue and do nothing, we will not be able to avoid responsibility in the future.
As climate changes caused by natural and man-made disasters become ever more serious, pessimistic views about mankind’s destiny might become widespread. Since temperatures began to be measured, the year 2005 has been the hottest year recorded.
For 15 years, beginning in 1990, record-high temperatures for the year were broken 13 times. We can feel the temperature rising each year.
The sea level is also rising, by more than two meters a year.
In the midst of these problems, some suggest humankind is moving toward a collapse. However, we should admit that climate changes pose grave challenges to humankind and we should be prepared to protect ourselves from them while seeking every available resource and method. Human wisdom, their instinct to survive and their creative efforts will make us win the battle in the end.
The European Union has set a goal that by 2020, carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 20 percent from the level of the 1990s. That is an exemplary way to handle the crisis. Great Britain took a leading role in having the United Nations Security Council define global warming as a serious threat to the world and have the issue on the agenda for discussion. The surge in demand for energy as well as the pollution levels in the environment have ruined the world so badly that we cannot delay taking action.
The whole world needs to work together to prepare measures and they must be effective for the environment, sustainable in the economic senses and fair for the international society. One of the most urgent issues in international politics is who will design a global system and rules to handle climate change after the Kyoto Protocol, which means after 2012.
Last month, 30 civic leaders in Korea, Japan and China got together in Japan to talk about current affairs. Energy and environmental pollution were the most important issues. China’s economy is growing by more than 10 percent a year, so it is considered the country that may add the most to energy demand and environmental pollution.
It is very impressive that China admits the seriousness of its problems and emphasizes cooperating with the world, particularly Korea and Japan, to try to resolve the problems.
At the meeting, an idea that the three countries establish a center for technology for the environment was suggested. China has the largest amount of coal deposits, along with the United States. China wants to receive technology help from the United States to minimize environmental pollution. In the procedures for handling energy issues and climate change in the 21st century, the United States and China are expected to take a leading role based on a better understanding about each other and cooperation with each other. In the meantime, what interests Koreans and what attitude do we have regarding energy and climate change? The New York Times is urging the U.S. presidential hopefuls to clarify their stances on energy and environmental pollution.
Korea’s presidential hopefuls also must present measures along these issues. The well-being and destiny of our grandchildren and the future of our country depend on them.

*The writer, a former prime minister, is an advisor to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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