[Letter to the Editor]Watch your carbon footprint

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[Letter to the Editor]Watch your carbon footprint

The extreme heat wave engulfing the country is all over the news. Ever year thousands of people create human waves on the beach and in water parks, trying to escape the humidity for a couple of days.

Let’s look at the trends: Temperatures are ever rising, breaking records each summer (hovering in the high 30s this year). However there is little explanation as to why.

That global warming is not an issue for the next generation but right now, is commonplace knowledge in most countries that Korea considers its economic rivals. Yet Koreans remain relatively nonchalant.

It is not a fluke that Korea now feels like a tropical rainforest as soon as June rolls in, but people, including myself, are still oblivious to the gravity of the problem because of a lack of public awareness.

What with the beef situation and Lee Myung-bak’s less than stellar performance, it is understandable that global warming is the last item on everyone’s agenda.

However, with ridiculously high energy costs and reminders from Ban Ki-moon’s visit and the G8 summit, it shouldn’t be left too far down the list.

According to a study conducted by the Korea Energy Economics Institute, between 1990 and 2005 our annual greenhouse gas emissions doubled from 300 metric tons to 591.1 metric tons, with each person accounting for 12.24 metric tons.

The world average is just under four tons per person.

No alarms ringing yet? Over the past century, our average air temperature rose more than twice as much as the rest of the world.

Sure, a 1.5-degree Celsius increase between 1905 and 2005 may seem insignificant, but when put into perspective with the global mean (a 0.18-to 0.74-degree incline), it is disturbing.

In the long run, Korea’s average temperature is forecast to rise another 5 degrees by the end of this century, meaning summer weather could easily leap into the 40s.

Shouldn’t we be more concerned?

Our 1-to 6-millimeter annual rise in sea levels far exceeds the global mean of 1.3 to 2.3 Millimeters. For a tiny peninsula surrounded by water, this spells trouble.

Everyone seems ready to complain about the sweltering summer, but reluctant to understand our direct hand in global warming.

Just the other day on television a government official wondered why developed countries are able to continue economic growth while reducing energy use.

In the so-called developed countries that were mentioned, governments make environmental law a national responsibility. For example, the EU requires an environmental impact assessment before any industrial project is launched; taxes and insurance are higher for people driving larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles.

In addition, unlike Korea, rarely do any of these countries have one metropolitan city where 25 percent of the national population resides.

Ironically, the Lee Myung-bak administration has decided on a 20 to 30 percent subsidy cutback on already limited funding for environmentally friendly energy alternatives like solar power.

President Lee’s Grand Canal plan drew a backlash from citizens due to environmental concerns.

A recent news report said that a Korean wedding releases three tons of CO2 emissions, of which two tons come from transportation taken by the guests alone.

If we were more educated about environmental concepts we’d realize that driving four hours to get to the beach releases more smog, worsening the climate.

Then, people would feel more responsible for and less annoyed by the heat.

Lee Hyein,

student, New York University
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