Global warming prevention in South Korea and Mexico: too little, too late?

April 14, 2009

Global warming is mostly due to human-induced actions and it’s been going on for about 1300 years now. At this point, it’s more than the extinction of species and low quality crops, it’s accompanying national tension over water supply and serious health-related impacts. Are the words prevention or mitigation too late to be used at this stage of global warming?

To answer this question, it is interesting to look at how individual nations are coping. As examples, we wanted to look at the climate change situation in our own countries — Mexico and South Korea.

The impact of climate change on South Korea can be seen in a variety of ways. Chungcheong Province has suffered from red tides, exacerbated by climate change, which not only reduce the amount of freshwater, but also kills fish and harms beach-goers. Climate change is also contributing to increasing numbers of heat waves which are especially damaging to people with heart, respiratory disease, diabetes and high blood pressure and the number of malaria patients has increased 400 times within 3 years.

South Korea is also one of the biggest victims of the ‘Asian brown haze.’ It is mentioned as a semi-permanent feature in Dupont’s study on the strategic impact of climate change, but I can say for sure that it has become a permanent phenomenon. Dust from China flies over to Korea (usually Seoul) and flies around for 2~3 days, and within this period, cars are covered in dust as if they haven’t been used for 10 years, and if it were to rain, it would be more like raining mud.

Finally, Korea has been known for its 4 distinct seasons, but this has become an old story now. Spring and fall has vanished for about two years now. Temperature has risen from an average of -5~2 degrees to 18~20 degrees in just two days. Korean research reports have shown that even if countries fully engage in reducing greenhouse gas emission, temperature will continue to rise on an average of 2 degrees each year and that the only way to cope with the abnormal temperature change is to get used to it.

The South Korean government, in order to act against global warming, has created an environmental group call the ‘Korea Green Foundation.’ Yet, many in South Korea are still unaware of the seriousness of global warming and are blaming China for the yellow dust phenomenon.

In the case of Mexico, the most vulnerable regions are the Central and Lerma-Chapala-Santiago Basin because the predicted increase in temperature coupled with a decrease in rainfall could cause severe water supply shortages in those regions. Northern areas and regions with large populations are vulnerable to droughts and desertification, while the Tabasco State Coast is supposed to be the most vulnerable to sea level changes. Northern and Central regions are also vulnerable in agricultural sector because the different temperature and precipitation changes; and finally forests are the most vulnerable ecosystems throughout the country.

SEMARNAT (the Mexican government branch that is in charge of taking care of environmental and natural resources) will seek to promote President Felipe Calderon’s proposal to create a Green Fund to finance green-house gas reduction projects. Also, several movements by national organizations to control vehicle pollution by working to improve car maintenance have been launched. Like South Korea, Mexico has no mitigation targets under Kyoto, but has agreed to play a more active role in the post Kyoto world since it believes that “Latin America and the Caribbean have the resources and leadership to be part of the global solution required to lead the world towards development with low carbon emission”

Human security in both countries has been threatened by extreme weather events linked to climate change. In Mexico, Wilma (2005) wrecked havoc with more than 30 dead and with economic damages of 29 million dollars approximately. In South Korea, an East Asian heat wave in 1994 affected over 1000 people in the region. The Shanshan Typhoon (2006) had more than 100 mm of rain and knocked out electricity to about four thousand homes in southeastern of South Korea.

When we look at these two countries, both of whom rank high on the human development index, yet neither of whom have implemented any serious greenhouse gas mitigation programs to date, we wonder whether it is too late to use the term ‘prevention’? Is it even possible to clean up after this mess?

Patty (Mexico) and Jenna (South Korea)

Sources:

“The Strategic Implications of Climate Change,” Alan Dupont

Korea.net News http://www.korea.net/News/news/NewsView.asp?serial_no=20060726017&part=109&SearchDay=
http://www.korea.net/news/News/NewsView.asp?serial_no=20080102019&part=115&SearchDay=

“If we behave as if its too late, then our prophecy is bound to come true” George Monbiot
EPA. Climate change. Retrieved on April 2nd from:

Conde, Cecilia; Gay, Carlos. “Impacts of Climate Change and Climate Variability in Mexico” (September-October 1999) Retrieved on April 2nd, 2009 from: http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/Library/nationalassessment/newsletter/1999.10/Mexico.html

Mexico’s Involvement in Efforts to Combat Climate Change (Monday, December 15, 2008) Retrieved on April 2nd from: http://mexidata.info/id2098.html and

Red tide spreads over west coast (July27, 2006) Retrieved on April 2nd from: http://www.korea.net/News/news/NewsView.asp?serial_no=20060726017&part=109&SearchDay=

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8 Responses to “Global warming prevention in South Korea and Mexico: too little, too late?”

  1. ghadirmahdy Says:

    Dear Patty & Jenna,
    Thank you for your article. I found it very interesting how you compared the effects of global warming in both Mexico and South Korea, as well as explaining the roles both countries have been playing in dealing with these problems.

    As you have already pointed out, the effects of global warming are hazardous and multi-dimensional; inflicting disease, conflict, environmental hazards and threats to basic human survival on this planet. And unless these issues are dealt with head-on, our planet will be at war with us.

    I think it is important to understand that global warming is a governmental responsibility consistent with an individual responsibility. One of the most significant setbacks preventing individuals from fighting global warming on a daily basis is due to a lack of awareness, lack of information and lack of education on how to substitute hazardous use of energy with more environmentally friendly energy.

    For example, in Egypt solar water heaters are very popular because they are cheaper as well as very practical considering the weather. And although local Egyptian culture may not be conscious of the fact that these solar water heaters are conducive to fighting global warming, people use them anyway because they coincide with the local environment and culture.

    The Egyptian government has been trying to tackle global warming issues for a while now. Mainly because the Egyptian people are composed of large populations living in low-lying areas; problems like rising sea-levels arouse great concern and threaten Egyptian agriculture. Therefore, the government has been ‘focused on potential threats of climate change’ (Hansen) by introducing new policies like ‘population relocation, genetically modified crops and barriers to lowlands’ (Hansen) in order to ready themselves for a very threatening future.

    “Whether it is too late to use the term ‘prevention or even possible to clean up after this mess” – I answer your article with the saying, ‘better late than never’. I think fighting global warming is a joint responsibility between government and individual. Responsibilities will obviously vary amongst countries depending on the nature of the relationship between the government and its people. If the government happens not to have too great a relationship with its people, then it’s up to the government to introduce culturally and environmentally friendly substitutive facilities and tools (e.g. solar water heaters) to help its people play a role in the fight against global warming.

    Looking forward to your comments.

    Ghadir Mahdy

    “Climate Connections, Solutions: Global Warming Solutions for Egypt, US.” Interview with Liane Hansen.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=90167615&m=90167590

  2. luises7 Says:

    Patty and Jenna:

    Thank you for your article. I found it very interesting, specially because you focused on two countries that are far from each other, but both are suffering the effects of global warming. Here is my comment:
    Just as the Mexican and Korean government, many other governments have failed to implement serious and effective measures to combat global warming. Moreover, some countries have started to see what can they do. The point is that time is ‘precious’ when speaking about climate change. If those governments do not start acting quickly, then it will be too late.
    On the other hand, I believe that those governments need to realize that ‘prevention’ is no longer the way, that is, the increase of 2ºC each year in the global temperature has provoked serious –and visible- damages not only to nature, but to human beings as well. Thus, governments need to engage in more serious ways to mitigate the direct and indirect effects caused by global warming.
    However, as many specialists have pointed out, temperature will continue to rise even if greenhouse emissions stop immediately, thus scope of the solutions taken is limited and also its efficiency.
    Governments need to understand that ‘global warming’ is indeed global, and not just an issue concerning the powerful countries. In fact, the developing countries, according to several studies, will be the most affected countries by climate change. Furthermore, most of those countries do not have the resources to protect their citizens, it means that those people are at serious risk: a global response could be part of the solution.
    Maybe we will not see dramatic changes in the world due to climate change, but next generations certainly will and their human security will worsen.

    Luis Esteban Arellano Salinas

  3. luis Says:

    Thanks Patty and Jenna for your post. I do not know exactly the effects that climate change has over korea but about Mexico I do, especially the ones at the north western Mexico. As Patty mention, it is a very dry area or a desertification are as she refer to. We are over here used to reach the 44 C degrees average in the summer and over shadows (like standing on a building, hose, tree shadow), but in 2005 the temperature skyrocket, break temperature records reaching the 46 C average under Shadow, which means that standing just in the middle at the street without any protection at 2pm you might feel deshidratated, sick, and a human temperature could reach 47C or 48 C depending on the time exposing to the sunlights. Then comes wilma, comes Katrina, and other huracains that also break the record of many huracains in 4 months. That year Mexico was victim of 17 huracains from both oceans (Atlantic and Pacific), the highest number ever report.
    After those facts, why Mexico have not act proactive in order to prevent instead of search for solutions after a disaster?, It’s there any change in the policies? those the “benefits” or “incentives” will actually work or are good enough to change culture? SEMARNAP does actually works to anticipate those possible threats? What about South Korea, any dramatic change in some regions? what does the government is actually doing for?
    I think some of those questions could help analyze and classify what actions are taking seriously on the government position, and if we as citizens are we acting to solve problems or to prevent and avoid those problems in first place.

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