Realigning our energy sourcesFine dust is posing a serious danger to public health. The concentration of fine dust particles from the beginning of the year to Sunday averaged 33 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Of the 85 days this year, 52 days, or 61 percent, showed dust levels that exceeded the 24-hour 25 micrograms recommended by the World Health Organization. The WHO in 2013 defined fine dust particles as carcinogenic. An international research team claimed 39,000 people died in South Korea and Japan from fine dust pollutants from China.
The Ministry of Environment claimed that 62 to 80 percent of the fine dust and 84 to 86 percent of the ultra-fine particles polluting air around the capital this month came from overseas. But the Financial Times quoted Kim Shin-do, professor at the University of Seoul, as saying that just 20 percent of fine dust come from China.
Greenpeace blames China for about 30 percent of the dust. Our government must look more inward to clean the air instead of waiting for China to do something.
The government must conduct a thorough study on the causes of fine dust. Effective action can only come after knowing the culprits. Car emissions and dust from construction and factory sites and coal-fueled power stations contribute to the air pollution. As the FT pointed out, power from coal-fueled plants in Korea increased by a whopping 95 percent last year from 2005. While fossil-fueled reactors were in charge of 40 percent of power used by Koreans, the share of emission-free nuclear reactors fell to 30 percent from 2014.
The government must draw up a comprehensive blueprint to use more environmentally friendly energy sources. Presidents must protect the people, which of course includes their ability to breathe.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 31, Page 34