Foggy carbon neutrality

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Foggy carbon neutrality

KANG KI-HEON
The author is an industry 1 reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.


There are about 1.85 billion gigatonnes of carbon on planet Earth. According to the Deep Carbon Observatory, a joint international research organization, about 43.5 trillion tons of carbon are present above earth’s crust, only 0.0023 percent of the total amount on Earth.

Mankind uses a very small portion of this because 85.1 percent of the carbon above the crust is buried in the sea. Three trillion tons of carbon, or 6.9 percent, are in the form of underwater precipitation, and 2 trillion tons, or 4.6 percent, are circulated among organisms. The life and death of living organisms can be explained with a carbon cycle. A 60-kilogram (132 pounds) adult body has 10.9 kilograms of carbon, which is the second-biggest compound in the body after oxygen at 38.8 percent. So, it is not scientifically ungrounded to say that humans are born from the soil and return to soil.

Two percent, or 900 billion tons, of carbon can be found below seawater, while 5,900 tons are included in the air, only 1.4 percent of total carbon present above the earth crust. It is a very negligible amount for the earth. However, whenever fossil fuels are converted to thermal energy, carbon moves up to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. The more people use fossil fuels from the ground, the more greenhouse gases are emitted.

Carbon has long been named the culprit of global warming. Finland was the first to introduce a carbon tax in 1990 to lower greenhouse gas emissions. An environment tax is imposed depending on the amount of fossil fuel used. Now 50 countries including Switzerland and Sweden impose carbon taxes. It is a matter of time before Korea does the same.

In December, President Moon Jae-in said that carbon neutrality will be strongly promoted in all areas of industry, economy and society. But specific guidelines are yet to be seen. There was no explanation on nuclear power that does not emit carbon. Carbon neutrality is closely related to industrial structure change, but there is no strategy on this. Korea’s main exporting industries — petrochemical, steel and automobile — are notable industries that produce a large amount of carbon. It is a moment we need a “skilled surgeon” to cut out muscle and blood vessels precisely, but I feel like I only see an agitator.

I fear that the same pattern of real estate policies based on one slogan after another may be repeated in carbon neutrality.
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