The climate crisis clock is tickingAHN CHAK-HEE
The author is the head of the global cooperation team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
There has been a drought since January and a late frost ruined the grape crops in April. After the heatwave in May, hail the size of ping-pong balls followed in June. This year’s weather in Loiret, France, 160 kilometers south of Paris, has been unusual. A grape farmer in the Rousset region near Marseille said in an interview that it’s been more than a year since he saw rain. He was anxious to rely solely on groundwater for farming. I felt thirsty just hearing these stories.
How about the United States on the other side of the Atlantic? As the mega drought has continued for more than 20 years, water shortage is a serious issue on the West Coast. Two thirds of the Great Salt Lake in Utah — the biggest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere — has already evaporated. The dried-up lake revealed soil mixed with toxic heavy metals such as arsenic.
Environmental scientists say it’s only a matter of time before the dirt turns into dust and hits neighboring cities such as Salt Lake City. Experts are worried that the Great Salt Lake is following the precedent of the now-disappeared Owens Lake in California. In the 1920s, after the city of Los Angeles diverted the river supplying water to Owens Lake, the lake dried up completely, causing the worst dust pollution in the country.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in a recent New York Times column, “Remember, we’re not talking about bad things that might happen in the distant future: Much of the lake is already gone and the big wildlife die-off might begin as early as this summer.”
This is not the first time that Krugman has written about climate change, not economic issues. He has been warning about the climate crisis periodically in a firm and desperate voice. Without resolving the climate change issue which is absolutely essential to the survival of humanity, the economy and other things don’t matter.
Korea is no exception. When I go hiking in mountains around the country on weekends, I notice that my sneakers get far dustier than in previous years. Due to the drastically decreasing precipitation last winter and spring and early heatwaves, we experienced historic wildfires from Gangneung to Miryang. The water storage rate of dams across the country has fallen below the previous average. While we welcome the rainy season, no one knows what kind of impact such an abnormal climate will have on us.
It is good to be an economic power, space power and cultural power. But it is about time we systematically review countermeasures to climate change.