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NO.451 12.03.2018

“Scientific Technology Can Solve Climate Change Problems”

The glacier that used to cover 800 ㎢ of the North Pole’s surface in the 1970s has been reduced by more than half to 340 ㎢ in September 2012. When Earth is seen from outer space, the top of the North Pole in the summer is no longer covered in white.

 

This is a clear illustration of the gravity of ice melting in the North Pole. The problem is that this is accelerating the pace of global warming, causing a variety of issues such as extreme weather, sea level rise, and a drop in agricultural output. Professor Peter Wadhams of the University of Cambridge, an expert in climate change, issued a dire warning: “If this trend continues, Earth will soon become an uninhabitable planet to humankind.”

Professor Wadhams visited Kyung Hee for the 2018 Peace BAR Festival (hereafter PBF), organized to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the UN International Day of Peace. This is the message of warning he delivered based on his own polar region data collected over 50 years from the 1970s, as well as other scientific data on climate change research.

 

Melting ice generates large volume of greenhouse gases such as methane, which accelerates the warming trend
Titled ‘A Farewell to Ice: Climate Change and Global Peace,’ the academic seminar on climate change started with Professor Wadhams’ keynote lecture followed by a panel discussion.

Professor Wadhams began by showing a climate change graph plotted over the past 40 years. At regular intervals, Earth has experienced glacial and interglacial periods; but a change has been observed in that interval. Traveling toward the next glacial period, the Earth’s temperature that was steadily dropping, began to rise dramatically since 1850, leading to what is now called global warming. Professor Wadhams has paid attention to this shift, and offers his analysis: “Rather than being a natural phenomenon, it is the outcome of increased use of fossil fuels during the industrial revolution.”

A comparison of the temperature curve created by the meteorological station and the Mann-Bradley curve, which illustrates the change in weather patterns during the past 160 years, clearly demonstrates the global warming that has been in progress since 1850. During this time, the temperature on Earth has risen by 0.8℃, and that of the North Pole by 2.4℃. As a result, ice is melting at a faster rate. The problem is that as the glacier, which reflects the heat from sun’s radiation, dissipates, Earth must absorb more heat, which speeds up the pace of global warming.

 

 

Causing many complicated issues such as extreme weather and drop in agricultural productivity
The problem of melting glaciers is not limited to global warming. It causes the sea current to change direction and slows down jet streams, leading to extreme weather conditions. Professor Wadhams warned, “Climate change that used to be concentrated in the northern hemisphere has recently expanded throughout the globe. This kind of extreme weather is likely to become more intense.” In other words, humankind will likely be exposed to more natural disasters, such as extreme heat, cold snaps, drought, typhoons and hurricanes, and flood.

Unusual weather impacts agricultural production, too. When glaciers melt, sea level rises, shrinking farmland and diminishing productivity when extreme weather is added to the mix. Professor Wadhams expressed concern that population increase will likely worsen future prospects.

 

 

“Need to focus on developing technology to remove carbon dioxide”
Professor Wadhams suggested a possible solution to the current problem. He said, “In the current situation, simply reducing CO2 emission will do little to solve the problems. Instead, we must focus on developing technology to remove carbon dioxide.” As the most pragmatic solution, he suggested the use of geoengineering technology. As an example, he referred to cloud seeding technology designed by Professor Stephen Salter of the University of Edinburgh. This geoengineering technology injects sea water, transformed into minute water particles, into the cloud.

Using this technology, the cloud’s reflectivity is enhanced, enabling more of the sun’s radiation energy to be reflected away from Earth. However, this, too, is not a permanent solution. Because CO2 present in the atmosphere ends up being absorbed by marine organisms, it can cause disruption in sea life, potentially giving rise to another kind of natural disaster. Professor Wadhams emphasized, “This can serve only as a stopgap measure; nevertheless, we must support geoengineering technology development. After that, we must focus prudent efforts on developing ways to remove 2 altogether.”

 

 

“Climate change is an evident truth; it must be taken seriously”
The panel discussion was moderated by Professor Irina Bokova, Miwon Chair Professor, Honorary Rector of Humanitas College, and former UNESCO Secretary General. Members of the panel concurred with Professor Wadhams that climate change is a threat to humankind’s survival.

Seong-Joong Kim, Principal Research Scientist at the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) took objective stock of the current situation. He said, “Korea experienced unprecedented extreme heat this summer. In addition, damages left by hurricanes and typhoons are omnipresent throughout the world. There are those who deny climate change, but it is an evident reality. We must take it seriously.”

 

“The younger generation must learn to take interest in climate change”
The importance of education to this end has been mentioned several times. President Maria Pia Casarini, Director of Instituto Geografico Polare “Silvio Zavatti,” stated, “The aftermath of climate change will have to be borne by the younger generation. We must educate them to take interest in this problem, not only from a scientific perspective, but also from an ethical perspective, so that they will be compelled to take responsibility to help those who live in regions damaged by climate change.”

Professor Bokova agreed and stressed the need for the entire world to get involved. She argued, “The impact of problems like climate change is not limited to a single region; it is felt globally. Through education, we must make everyone understand that this is a global challenge. It cannot be achieved alone by governments or the academia. Civic societies must take the helm in addressing this issue, too.”

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