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Betting our lives

Nov 18,2019
KANG CHAN-SU
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Thousands of scientists around the world have sent a strong message about the “clear and unequivocal” climate catastrophe. In a paper published in BioScience, 15,300 leading climate scientists signed a declaration called “Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency.”

Since the Paris agreement, the world has been warned that it could face extreme weather events and sea level rises if the average global surface temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The planet’s surface temperature has been rising 0.2 degrees every 10 years and gained 1 degree from the times of industrial revolution. At the current rate, the 1.5 degree threshold will be reached within the next 30 years. Greenhouse emissions should be reduced 5 to 10 percent a year to ensure zero emissions by 2050.

Although the clock is ticking, the world has been back-pedalling. Carbon emissions have increased. One of the largest emitters, the United States, has walked out of the Paris climate agreement. According to the Climate Policy Initiative, global spending to reduce greenhouse gas emissions stopped at $555 million last year, down 11 percent from 2017. To reach the emissions goal by 2030, spending must be tripled each year from the current level.

Combating carbon emissions is like passing around a bomb. People demand others use public transportation and stairs, while they prefer to drive their cars and use the elevator. Other people can share the pain, but I cannot have my annual paycheck shrunk 5 to 10 percent a year for a climate tax. Having contributed to the surge of carbon emissions by 2,798 percent from 1965 to 2018, Koreans cannot easily turn a blind eye.

Regulations against human nature cannot succeed. The concept behind the Green New Deal backs growth, but through investments that reduce greenhouse gases. Technology and innovations must be radical to drive growth while curbing greenhouse gases. Whether such technological breakthroughs will arrive in 10 to 20 years time to save the human race remains to be seen. Human civilization in the meantime may be making a very high-stakes gamble.