[Viewpoint]The future is in our hands, right nowA number of strong warnings have been issued this year about global warming.
Sir Nicholas Stern, a British economist, warned that if efforts to reduce greenhouse gases were delayed, the world’s economy would suffer a loss in gross national product of at least 5 percent, with a maximum of 20 percent.
At the Davos world leaders’ forum in February, some expressed concern that developing countries, which are more vulnerable to climate changes than more advanced countries, would be hurt even worse.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphasized on May 4 that mankind has only about eight years left to prevent climate change disasters. In other words, unless the temperature hikes stop at between 2.0 and 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2015, the temperature will increase by up to 6 degrees by 2100.
That will cause about 30 percent of all living things to be exterminated and 30 percent of the world’s coastlines to be submerged. The environmental Maginot line, referring to the French line of defense that failed to hold back Germany in World War II, for human beings may be the year 2015.
The panel also suggested solutions. It said energy efficiency should be increased and high efficiency lighting used; neo-reproducible energy should be expanded and the greenhouse gas emissions trading system should be used actively.
I believe these are correct solutions. This means that the time to take action is now because the scientific verification of climate change, which began to be discussed in earnest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, has occurred.
Korea has made some efforts toward the prevention of global warming, but hasn’t had many results.
Although Korea has carried out comprehensive measures three times regarding climate change, it displays its policies like department store showcases, but doesn’t properly select and concentrate on them.
The “participatory” government promised that it would raise the proportion of renewable energy supply to 5 percent by 2011, but the promise has turned out to be almost empty.
The present proportion still remains at about 1 percent. The supply of bio-fuel that can replace transportation fuel stands stagnant for non-economic reasons.
Fortunately enough, however, energy efficiency has improved and high efficiency lighting devices have been widely distributed.
When something breaks out, we often make a road map first.
It is desirable to conceive a future plan in advance. But we tend to forget our goals while making the road map.
More than anything else, there should be public relations policies to help citizens and civic groups understand the seriousness of climate change.
This is the most vulnerable, and yet most important part of the government’s “navigation map” for the prevention of climate change.
Second, it is necessary to develop a program that will strengthen the efforts made by local government officials. Periodic training and strengthening of their expertise is urgently needed, as those officials are the warriors at the forefront of the Maginot line.
Third, the overall industrial and transportation and building sectors must be reinforced.
In the industrial sector, finding new fuels, the development of carbon dioxide absorption equipment and separation technologies, as well as recycling, should be maximized in addition to energy efficiency improvements.
Also, measures for the active use of renewable energy should be included in the navigational picture.
In the transportation sector, every effort should be put toward developing clean engine technology.
It is also necessary to make public transportation vehicles environmentally friendly.
In the building sector, policies that take the environment into account for the entire process, from design to completion, should be introduced.
People in homes should make efforts to use high-efficiency lighting devices and use products that minimize the consumption of electric power while they are idle.
The climate change problem is now at hand, and we should bear in mind that Korea is responsible for reducing greenhouse gases in accordance with international treaties.
The government should formulate effective policies and should display its ability to negotiate internationally while cooperating between its own departments.
The industrial circles should lose their passive attitude in which they worry only about the costs of greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Instead, they should aggressively push to create new greenhouse gas reduction industries.
The people should lead environmentally friendly lives.
Some time ago, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore won the Academy Award for best documentary film. The title of his film, about global warming, is “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Yet, the truth is not inconvenient, but eternal.
*The writer is a professor of industrial economics at Chung-Ang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Jeong-in