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Updated: 2019.8.18 01:57
 
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The World is in Danger
[ Issue 171 Page 6 ] Wednesday, June 19, 2019, 16:16:13 Duman Kuandyk Head of International Division duman@kaist.ac.kr

This year’s carbon dioxide emissions have set a new record in history. Humanity’s actions have resulted in the increase of CO2 levels to 415 parts per million (ppm). Such emission levels were predicted by experts working for Exxon, one of the largest oil companies, almost forty years ago. While we may praise them for the accurate predictions, we should not forget that Exxon still spends millions of dollars on promoting climate change denial.

“There’s no doubt that such an idea sounds too ambitious and idealistic, but the current situation demands serious action.”

This scandal suggests that it is primarily corporations, not governments, that resist environmentalist policies. Most governments are unable to act in an objective and independent manner, partly because these corporations spend mountains of money on lobbying their interests. Corporations spend money not only on promoting their own cause, but also on spreading doubt and skepticism towards pro-environment movements such as Greenpeace. Those in power, be it political, financial, or both, do not want to lose their sources of influence. There is no doubt that enacting strict environmental regulatory measures would mitigate the worst of the horrifying impacts of industrialization.

It may sound like a win-win situation, but the small but powerful minority who stands to lose has an influence that stands above almost any government across the world. The owners of the largest corporations will not countenance a loss of profit, even in exchange for a better future of the entire planet. CEOs scramble for short-term profits at the cost of long-term sustainability. But by the time it’s too late, they’ll be gone, and sadly the terrible consequences of their bad decisions will not directly impact their trigger. As the French monarch Louis XV once said, “Après nous, le déluge” — “after us, the flood” — those in power do not care what happens once they are gone. It is horrible to see the largest corporations use this as a decision-making principle.

We need to ensure that governments enact eco-friendly regulations, because no amount of individual activism can compare to the power of a single law being enforced. While countries like Sweden are succeeding in reducing carbon emissions by shifting to nuclear energy, most of the world is still not doing enough to preserve the environment. China, for example, is simply moving polluting factories out of its territory, relocating environmentally hazardous facilities to Central Asia and Africa. That technically reduces its national contribution to global CO2 emissions, but the total emissions remain the same. Shifting the blame from one country to another is not rational behavior when it comes to global cooperation. We need to ensure that all countries cooperate rather than undermine the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN in 2015. This is why not only the United States, but the entire world is in desperate need of a Green New Deal — a large bill that would address both climate change and economic inequality.

There’s no doubt that such an idea sounds too ambitious and idealistic, but the current situation demands serious action. According to the United Nations, we have merely a decade left to mitigate the effects of global warming before the situation becomes uncontrollable. Such messages, including this article as well, are criticized by skeptics for being too “fear-mongering”. But just because these disasters did not happen yet does not mean they will not happen at all.

 

Duman Kuandyk Head of International Division Archives  
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