Air, water, food crisis…The socially vulnerable will collapse first.

The future predicted by the “Korea Climate Change Assessment Report” released by the Ministry of Environment and the Meteorological Administration last year is gray. It is the latest edition of the climate change white paper on the Korean Peninsula, which has been published by collecting about 2,000 domestic and foreign research results over the past six years, and the situation of the report is serious and the outlook is gloomy. Global changes such as heat waves, droughts, heavy rains and heavy snow do not discriminate against people. In particular, the socioeconomic weak, such as children, the elderly, chronically ill, and the disabled, are in crisis. Tropical infectious diseases carried by mosquitoes and mites increase, and food production such as rice, potatoes, and corn also causes problems.

The report warned that deepening the climate crisis would be dangerous to the socially vulnerable. Vulnerable groups sensitive to extreme weather, such as heatwaves, are elderly people aged 65 or older, infants and children, chronically ill patients such as cardiovascular disease or respiratory diseases, the disabled, homeless people, and many occupational exposure.

As the temperature and humidity rise, the number of ticks explodes, and the elderly in rural areas had the highest risk of Tsutsugamushi disease or severe febrile thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS). This is because the lower the income and education level, the more difficult it is to have a residential environment to counter these threats, and the lower the possibility of using technology.

The warmer the winter, the more infectious diseases in tropical areas can become endemic in Korea. In 2050, when the average temperature in January is expected to be above 10 degrees Celsius, hibernation of adult white-lined mosquitoes carrying dengue fever and Zika virus will be possible. Currently, the eggs of white-lined mosquitoes can hibernate, but adult insects freeze to death in winter. When temperatures rise and adult hibernation becomes possible, the tropical virus will spread to Korea.

Weather disasters caused by climate change cause damage to national infrastructure such as roads and ports. As the sea level rises, the risk of flooding in coastal areas also increases. Regional deaths from meteorological disasters were higher in small and medium-sized cities and rural areas than in large cities. In particular, people living in small and medium-sized cities, farming and fishing villages, and coasts were more than 11 times more vulnerable to weather disasters than inland metropolitan cities.

Extreme climate and air pollution also require industrial changes. If outdoor leisure activities such as hiking and cycling decrease, related industries will shrink. Food and beverage, home appliances, and fashion industries are also sensitive to climate change. As heating use decreases and energy used for cooling increases, the energy industry needs to respond. Problems arise in food production as well. At the end of the 21st century, rice productivity in Korea will decrease by more than a quarter. Apple farming will be impossible in the entire Southern peninsula. In the case of potatoes, summer potatoes in the 2060s and 2090s will be reduced by more than 30% and autumn potatoes by 10%. If the water temperature continues to rise, the types and waters of fish and algae that are subject to aquaculture will also change.

In this situation, the report stressed the need for policies for the socially vulnerable first. The report argued that the residential environment where safety and hygiene are not secured, such as old slate houses, should be improved, and natural disaster risk areas should be reorganized in preparation for heavy snow. The report also argued that “green remodeling,” which increases energy efficiency and renovates houses safely, should be carried out on a large scale.


Categories: Society