"The hotter earth, the climate crisis will be a different level of danger."
Last month, news of extreme weather events around the world has continued uninterruptedly. Floods sweeping southern China, 38 degrees heatwave in Siberia, water bombs on Japan, monster yellow sands in the United States... One of the articles in the Kukmin Ilbo was titled “The Earth's Counterattack, which became hot.”
Chun-ho Cho, who was the former president of the National Institute of Meteorological Science, talked about the continuing rainy season, the heatwave that would come after, and the climate crisis that caused extreme weather conditions in the world. During the days of the National Institute of Meteorology, Director Cho built a system that predicts the world's weather and has been studying climate change for nearly 20 years and promoting the dangers of the climate crisis through active public lectures.
-We also suffered personal damage in Busan and other places due to the rainy season, and the heavy rain damage was severe in neighboring China and Japan. Bangladesh is also said to have submerged one-third of its land.
“Asia's rainy season is a very important factor for survival, not just rain. In Asia, 3.5 billion people live by farming due to the rain that falls all at once during the summer season called the “Asian monsoon”. However, changes in the amount and timing of rain due to climate change can be quite dangerous, as it leads to changes in grain production.”
-When we started talking about heavy rain, the answer was the climate crisis and the food crisis.
“Early last year, a climate report came out in Australia written by security strategists. What the researchers who participated in the discussions were posted on YouTube, and this is what they say. “A small change in precipitation in Asia could cause hundreds of millions of people to suffer from starvation. When Asians come by plane or boat to Australia, where should the Australian military stop them and who should they receive?” That's why security strategists, not scientists, wrote climate reports. In some ways, we, who are the parties, are just blinking, and Australia is concerned. US security labs have already been doing this over a decade ago.”
-We can become food refugees...
“The most frightening thing about climate change is food. Whether it's the financial crisis or COVID 19, don't you still eat? But when I went to the mart, there was nothing to eat, so this is a risk that cannot be calculated. We are a country that brings all of the resources, energy, and food for survival from abroad. Nowadays, poor countries like Tuvalu and Bangladesh are suffering from the climate crisis. If it spreads to industrialized countries, it is highly likely that we will be beaten first. Many people think of COVID 19 as 'this will also pass'. This presupposes that it will recover someday over time, but once the climate crisis is revealed, it accelerates and will never recover. It's a completely different risk than the ones we've seen so far.”
-However, there were many complaints that the weather forecast was not accurate during this rainy season.
“In the US, it is rare to say that the weather forecast is wrong in California, but in the northeastern region, there are frequent articles criticizing the forecast. This is because the level of uncertainty in forecasting varies by region, not by the level of forecasting technology. In particular, in Korea, the air that has passed through the continent tends to change rapidly from the west sea to the sea, making it more difficult to predict. Current forecast levels cannot match the weather at a specific point in time. Still, the profit is greater when there is no forecast than when there is no forecast, so the forecast should be made. (Our country's weather forecasting power ranks in the top 3-6 with Japan and the United States after the European Union and the UK. There are only 13 countries that can predict the world's weather like us.)”
Flood damage is increasing in Asia, including China, Japan, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The picture shows self-defense forces rescue residents with rubber boats in Omuta-mura, Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan, where a record heavy rain poured on the 7th.
-When the rainy season is over, it is said that the heat will begin in earnest from August, and there will be a heatwave for 7 to 13 days.
“The media used to report 'the heatwave that comes once in 50 years, once in 100 years', but now such an article comes out every year. In a scenario where greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced at all, it is predicted that by 2030, the summer will be subject to constant heatwaves. For a climatologist, the scary situation is the heatwave that increases humidity. If it's a heatwave, you only think about the temperature, but humidity can be more dangerous. When the temperature rises, a lot of evaporation occurs in the sea, and the humidity increases. Even in tropical nights, high temperatures are maintained at night due to humidity. The temperature we are talking about is a temperature that does not take humidity into account, and there is a separate 'wet-bulb temperature' that takes humidity into account. When the wet-bulb temperature exceeds 35 degrees, evaporation does not occur in the skin, and when that happens, the body temperature cannot be controlled and it lasts only five or six hours.”
-What is the current wet-bulb temperature?
“Normally, the wet-bulb temperature rarely exceeds 35 degrees. However, the temperature is extremely high, and even if there is a rainy season front, or when a typhoon passes and moisture is supplied only 2-3 days a year, the area becomes a difficult place for people to live.”
-There is a forecast that more than 60% of the Korean Peninsula will belong to a subtropical climate by 2080 due to global warming.
“Jeju Island and the southern coastal region have entered the subtropical region. The average temperature in Seoul now is almost the same as that in Daegu in the 1940s. The climate zone is moving northward very quickly. Analyzing the past 100 years, summer has increased by a month and winter has decreased by a month.”
-The Korean Peninsula is not yet a place where the damage from the climate crisis is noticeable.
“Our country is a country with great volatility in nature. The temperature difference between summer and winter is 50 degrees, and the daily temperature difference is 20 degrees. It is said that Koreans prefer to live in places with a slightly dry and constant climate, such as California, Australia, and Southern Europe in the United States, and those places continue to suffer from drought and forest fires. In Australia, wildfires lasted for seven months, and the fluctuations in nature are small, so the signs of climate change are clearly visible first. In Korea, the signs of the climate crisis will emerge later than this.”
-Isn't it because we are relatively insensitive to the climate crisis because climate change is not felt.
“Because it is not an incident that takes place right in front of you, there is an aspect that has to be done. Another aspect is that the climate crisis emerged because we used a lot of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, and the growth of today's civilization cannot be conceived without fossil fuels. In the end, the current climate crisis occurred because our civilization succeeded, and it has a traitorous property that occurred when we rushed to live well. To respond to the climate crisis, it will be difficult to accept, as we have to put the brakes on the affluent lives we have been enjoying.”
-The hottest climate-related issue in Korea in recent years has been fine dust. In his lecture, he said, "If fine dust is a bad guy, climate change is a nuclear bomb." Are you suffering from bullies and not seeing the coming nuclear bomb?
“Fine dust is a risk of bad health, and the risk itself is simple. On the other hand, the rise in temperature due to the climate crisis does not mean that it is simply hot and difficult to live, but a tremendous crisis in which the global control system collapses. When the global control system collapses, droughts lead to a shortage of food and water, and rising sea levels lead to submersion of our habitats, destroying the grounds for our survival. It is not a problem to be placed on the same level as fine dust.
Fine dust reacts with the sun and disappears within a day or two of the occurrence. If it remains long, it is up to 5 days. However, once carbon dioxide is emitted, it remains in the atmosphere for more than 100 years, and some accumulate for more than 1000 years. So fine dust is a problem for our generation, but greenhouse gases pass the risk to the next generation.”
-I remember the angry face of Thunberg, a teenage environmental activist who spoke in front of world leaders, saying, "I will never forgive you if I disappoint our future generations."
“My generation has seen many benefits by running a factory in a car while emitting greenhouse gases, but the next generation does not. The problem is that the source of the risk is different from the generation that has to deal with the risk, and if the next generation learns of this situation, everyone will become angry faces like Thunberg.”
I attended the Climate Action Summit held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 23, 2019, and said, "The whole ecosystem is collapsing. But what you're talking about is just a fairy tale about money and permanent economic growth. How the hell can that be? Greta Thunberg, 16, gave a passionate speech on climate change.
When talking about the climate crisis, we cannot forget about the global average temperature. The global average temperature has risen by 4 degrees over the past 10,000 years but has risen by 1 degree over the past 100 years after industrialization. Humans raised the earth's temperature 25 times faster than nature. In 2015, the international community agreed to keep the global average temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and 195 countries participated. However, in 2018, at the 48th IPCC (Intergovernmental Council on Climate Change) meeting in Songdo, Incheon, the 48th IPCC agreed to lower the limit to 1.5 degrees, saying that the second degree is also dangerous. Accordingly, it has set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 45% compared to 2010 by 2030, and that fossil fuels will hardly be used by 2050.
Director Cho explained, “The number of 1.5 degrees may not seem like a big deal, but people should go to the hospital when their normal body temperature rises 1.5 degrees to 38 degrees.”
-Since it has already risen by 1 degree, the allowable increase in global temperature remains only 0.5 degrees.
“If it exceeds 0.5 degrees, it doesn't mean you're going to a completely different world. Now I hear the news of extreme weather every day, but my daily life is not suffering from the climate crisis. When you experience a heatwave or a flood or a forest fire, you are aware of this news,'because this is because of the climate crisis', and this is the level of perception, but this is a precursor. Always and globally. The Earth loses its resilience when it goes up by 0.5 degrees and exceeds 2 degrees. At that time, I believe that the Earth will raise its own temperature and live in a climate that has never been experienced.”
-At the IPCC general meeting in 2018, it was said that the time to break through 1.5 degrees will be around 2040.
“I think it will be 2035-2045, but it is highly likely that it will be accelerated. Two weeks ago, the World Meteorological Organization announced that there was a 24% chance of exceeding 1.5 degrees within the next five years. Some years are higher than normal, and others are lower than normal, and there is a probability that it can exceed 1.5 degrees in one year within 5 years. Climate change is becoming more apparent, intensifying, and accelerating over time.”
-Aren't you just talking too negative?
“Climate scientists predict conservatively. That's because they predict based on what they know about the Earth. The arctic frozen land is a clump of carbon twice as much carbon as the atmosphere. When the earth gets hotter and the frozen soil melts, carbon will be released, which will increase the temperature of the earth, and then it will melt more.
Sea level is also expected to rise by about 1m at the end of this century, according to the current trend, which is calculated as a case where the glaciers calmly melt, like candy melting in the mouth. Just as if you bite a candy, it melts faster. If a glacier breaks and melts, you can't calculate when and how much it will melt. All the parts that could not be accurately calculated were excluded. Scientists have been talking about the climate crisis for over 30 years and looking at the trends currently being observed, changes are continually taking place in the most extreme and unfavorable direction expected.”
-Our country is called the “climate villain”. The world's 7th place in carbon dioxide emissions, air quality is 35~36th out of 36 OECD countries, and the climate change response index is 58th out of 61 countries... It is in the last place in almost all indicators.
“The climate villain is decided by international civic groups, but if you evaluate it, it is Korea that gets caught. During the Myung-bak Lee administration, in order to cope with the climate crisis, it said that it was doing green growth and actually increased greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past 10 years, countries that live about us have generally reduced their fossil fuel consumption. However, we have no choice but to do that, even though our electronics industry is strong, the industrial structure itself is centered on the heavy and chemical industry. As we cling to economic growth, we have to supply energy cheaply in some way and maintain the heavy and chemical industry. Other countries have made significant transitions to renewable energies such as solar and wind, and we are sticking to the old way of success.”
-How do you evaluate the government's response to climate change and the Green New Deal?
“There is no country that is going to build a new coal power plant among the so-called advanced countries. Most of Europe has declared that what is now in operation will be completely closed within 10 years. However, we are planning to build 7 coal power plants in the next 10 years and also in other countries (Indonesia and Vietnam). The Republic of Korea is one of the world's top 10 economic powerhouses and has never been a leader of valuable work. The Green New Deal is also noticed, and it looks like it is following. The Green New Deal in Europe and the United States combines two things: responding to the climate crisis and addressing inequality. I doubt whether Korea's Green New Deal will take place within the framework of economic growth. Since the Green New Deal is only on the national agenda, we have to see if it will end after only destroying nature like green growth.”
-Explaining the link between the climate crisis and the resolution of inequality.
“One-third of the world's food is thrown away as garbage. Many of the items on display at the mart are also going to go to the trash. The circulation structure of mass production-mass consumption-mass disposal must be cut off. In order to mass-produce, raw materials and energy must be exploited from the earth, and after mass consumption, all kinds of garbage and pollutants are thrown out on the earth, causing problems. It is not a lack of deficiency, but a situation that is already excessive. Inequality is a problem that we must cherish and share. The top eight people in the world have more wealth than the bottom 50%, and the top 10% of greenhouse gases emit half. It is difficult to solve the climate crisis without addressing the inequality problem.”
-Recently, our industry has argued that up to 1.3 million jobs will be lost if the current plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is followed.
“Then I want to ask if the way of success so far will guarantee future survival. Developed countries and major capitals are already responding to the climate crisis. Amazon, Google, and Apple said they would not accept supplies unless they use power generated from renewable energy sources, as well as suppliers manufacture parts with renewable energy.
The European Union said it would hit the carbon tax if goods coming across the border used fossil fuels during manufacturing. With such a tax on our products, we are forced to lose our price competition. Do you think it will be possible to export steel products while getting a carbon tax? Europe will eventually secure the competitiveness of its own industry through a carbon tax, but for us who follow, it could kick the ladder.”
-Does it mean that GHG emissions become a new trade barrier and if lukewarm coping with climate change would hurt the national economy?
“The trend around the world is that, as an exporting country, there are areas that we must act upon to survive. Solar panel and battery prices have fallen by 85% over the past decade. The fact that from 100 won to 15 won means that all technologies are concentrated here and tremendous industrial innovation is taking place. I think it will drop by 50% more in the next 10 years. Then, no energy production method will be able to outperform renewable energy. In such a situation, if we maintain the existing industrial structure and past development methods, there will be no competitiveness at all. It is not the workers who change the industrial structure. Whether you become a powerhouse or a business owner, leaders must change.”
-People like President Trump deny climate change and say science and technology will solve environmental problems.
“Engineering has been a great help in building modern civilization, but the climate problem for the entire planet is daunting. When the Pinatubo volcano erupted in the Philippines in 1991, the ash rose to 10 km above the stratosphere. After that, for about two years, the earth's temperature dropped by 0.5 degrees due to the volcanic ash blocking the sunlight. Scientists did a simulation and found that raising an airplane into the stratosphere and scattering dust can reduce the temperature. The problem, however, is that it does not just drop the temperature, it also changes precipitation and other things, which can be very dangerous.
There was an idea to trap and bury carbon dioxide directly from a power plant like nuclear waste, but it was impossible. I'm not ignoring the possibilities of engineering, but the engineering we have now has no way to solve the climate crisis.”
-Environmental activists usually emphasize moderation and frugality. Reducing the use of disposables, using public transportation, turning on the air conditioner at an appropriate temperature, and eating vegetarian, it is not easy to give up the convenience.
“Personal sensibilities to reduce the use of disposable items are also important, but the climate crisis is not a problem that is solved by changing only me. It is politics that amplifies the ethics of individuals to change me. Now that politics is distorted, we talk about bad things, dirty things, and I think politics is about what kind of world we believe in together. The values we believe in must be made into law and well selected for enforcement. Responding to the climate crisis ultimately requires a change in politics and a system change.”
-Few politicians talk about the climate crisis.
“Politicians must also be made and raised by us. Politicians are bound to follow the values that many believe. Politicians who can't grow because we're stuck on material and growth each time say that they will grow the economy, and we become a vicious circle of giving votes there again.”
-If you read and hear about the climate crisis, the situation is urgent, but it seems impossible to reduce greenhouse gases, so it seems likely to flow into pessimism. There is also a disease called climate depression, but is there any hope?
“The quicker we turn back on climate change, the less shock we have, but I also feel dark and frustrated. However, I think that the climate crisis will provide an opportunity for me to reflect on whether my life and society can go as they are and talk about a new world. This is what the Bible says about conversion and repentance, and I see it as an opportunity for us to start anew. There is definitely hope.”