Does Earth really need our protection? (16)
There are implications of sea level rise but time has proven that the Earth can deal with it. Dangerous climate change? Climate changes every day whether or not you do anything about it.
By Jake J. Nho
This is a question that people have faced since about 30 years ago, give or take. Why does the Earth need protecting? Why is there so much concern about environmental protection?
Around the end of the 1980s, there was a continuous flow of reports in the media about the giant hole in the ozone layer as a result of the emissions of excessive carbon gases.
It sounded as if everyone was going to die of skin cancer because the ozone layer was no longer going to be there to protect us. Do we talk about the ozone layer now? Did a majority of the Earth’s population get skin cancer? Not by a long shot.
There are streams of reports in the media (again) about yellow sand blowing into Korea from China. This is scientifically true. But when was the last time you had to go to hospital for exposure to the yellow sand? Hard to remember, isn’t it?
Global warming is another big, big issue and many experts are convinced that the end of the world is upon us because of the increasing temperatures and the consequences.
The world as we know it evolves one way or another. There are parts of the world that lack potable water and people are suffering. There are parts of the world that people cannot dwell because of harsh climate conditions.
But the fact of the matter is that while all this would indicate that the global population should be shrinking at an alarming rate and it is not. The last time I checked, the global population was increasing with absolutely no signs that we will head in the opposite direction.
In fact, many people are concerned that the world population is increasing too quickly. If the global environment is so terrible, why would this be happening?
There are constant reports in the media (again) and supported scientifically, that ice in the Antarctic is melting and this is leading to sea levels rising. How does this affect the health of your family?
I am forever the optimist and I am one of those people who believe that Armageddon is not upon us. The end of the world could have come many times over but it did not.
So we come back to the question of whether or not the Earth really needs our protection, if the whole thing is about scientists and the media trying to make a living by feeding fear.
We really do not know if the world is coming to an end but if it is, it is certainly not because we failed to protect our environment. I checked my facts and the Earth has the ability to protect itself.
Let’s look at the facts. According to the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, global temperatures have increased by 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade over the past 30 years. If this is true, temperatures have increased by 0.6 degrees Celsius in 30 years.
When you ask a meteorological center what the temperature is going to be tomorrow, it will say, for example, 10 degrees Celsius but it turns out that it is 15 degrees. That’s a difference of 5 degrees in a single day based on information from people who do that for a living. How does that compare with 0.6 degrees in 30 years, if in fact that is correct?
That report from the National Academy of Sciences goes on to say, “We conclude that global warming of more than 1 degree, relative to 2000, will constitute dangerous climate change as judged from likely effects on sea levels and extermination of species.”
Let’s assume that they are intelligent people and that their assumptions are true. That change of 1 degree will affect the sea level and exterminate species. So what? The animal kingdom has reigned on the Earth for millions, probably billions of years, and we are still here.
There are implications of changes in the sea level but time has proven that the Earth and its people can deal with it. Dangerous climate change? Climate changes every day whether or not you do anything about it.
Choices for better environment
Many of the findings reported by scientists and through the media try to alert the world and its people of the dangers we are facing. Interestingly enough, there are often no solutions.
They talk about the need to reduce the emission of carbon gases to stop global warming as if this is going to lead to the annihilation of the Earth and everyone on it. Not true.
There has been the leakage of all types of chemicals into rivers and seas. While this is something that must be stopped, history has shown that the planet’s strength can cope with it.
Consider the earthquake and the tsumani that occurred in northeastern Japan last year and the devastation they brought to the nuclear power plants in Fukushima.
There are reports of radioactive contamination resulting from the “meltdown” of the power plants and 53 of 54 nuclear power plants in Japan have been shut down.
But how serious is the radioactive contamination? Investigations have shown that they have affected water tens of kilometers away but the effects of the contamination remains unclear at best.
Martin Freer, a professor of nuclear physics at the University of Birmingham and director of the Birmingham Center for Nuclear Education and Research, said in a recent newspaper column:
“We need to promote a much more inclusive and informed dialogue about if nuclear power is to be assessed on its genuine merits, rather than dismissed on the grounds of little more than ignorance and intransigence.”
This is a supportive statement on the fact that politicians, government officials and virtually everyone else overreact when it comes to the environment.
Overreacting to environment
Overreacting? This will probably raise serious arguments but facts and history show us that we have indeed been overreacting to situations and circumstances for which we have no control.
Experts talk about global warming all the time and the need to reduce the emission of carbon gases and other hazardous chemicals into the environment.
Is this happening? No. We notice that automobile companies have been developing hybrid and electric cars in an effort to reduce pollution through the reduction of the use of fossil fuels.
This concept is actually strange since there appear to be other alternatives which are much more cost effective and less time consuming.
One of the propositions I make to organizations like the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, which engineers energy policies, is to increase the price of gasoline and other automotive fuels to discourage regular motorists from driving unnecessarily.
The reason is that, as reported (again) in a newspaper last week, many people drive their vehicles simply because they have them; without practical or economic thought.
For these people, gasoline should cost at least 4,000 won per liter (about double what it is now) to enlighten them of using public transport systems like buses and subways.
These buses and trains run whether or not people take them; most buses use concentrated natural gas and subway trains operate using electricity, meaning they generate virtually no pollution.
And yet, people choose, wrongly, to drive their cars to work. This is not only a waste of a lot of time and energy, but it creates huge amounts of air and other forms of pollution, probably much more than the yellow sand from China.
When there is discussion about environmental pollution, we look at industrial companies, hinting that they cause air and water to become dirty.
While some of these arguments are true, most leading companies like steel giant POSCO make dedicated efforts to prevent such pollution.
In each of the steel mills they operate, more than 1 trillion won ($900 million) is invested to ensure that none of the water from its processing systems reaches rivers unpurified.
The same is true for companies like Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics because they recognize the potential of the contribution they could make in polluting the Earth.
What this argument leads to is this: There are countless companies and organizations that are clearly aware of the danger of environmental pollution and investing huge amounts of money to prevent the consequences.
In end, it is up to us as individuals, all 6 billion of us, to take the precautions needed to help preserve the environment and this is not as hard as some people imagine.
Take the bus and the subway. It may be a little inconvenient at times but it is a small contribution that we can make for the betterment of the planet that we live on.
Some people worry that the world we are going to leave behind for future generations is going to be hazardous.
The worries stop here.
Government policies are great when they work but the small little things that we can do, if we insist that we have the responsibility of protecting the Earth and the environment, are really simple.
The quality of water in the upper reaches of the Han River has in fact been improving in recent years as is the case in many other rivers in Korea. Experts say this is the result of residents and visitors taking more care when they are in the vicinity to ensure less water pollution.
Korea Times file The past 210 years have seen some of the most amazing developments in human science and technology thanks to the developments of the Industrial Age and its successor, the Information Age. However, the elements that make this highly sophisticated society possible are rapidly being depleted, leading scientists and environmentalists alike to growing concern about human survival.
The reason for this concern is really simple. Today’s industrial civilization is based on a trinity of resources: metals, hydrocarbons (fossil fuels) and electricity. Each of these elements is dependent upon the other two. Without electricity and metals, there would be no way to extract the hydrocarbons, or fossil fuels, that create more electricity and process more metals from ore. Without fossil fuels, there would be no efficient way to generate electric power.
Jake J. Nho has been a journalist since 1985, covered the environment beat in and around 1990. He has written numerous articles on various environmental issues for over 20 years. He also has been working on corporate affairs during his career. Nho is currently a part of organizing the “Earth in Danger” series.