In June 2021, in Lytton, Canada, the highest temperature reached 49.6°C, becoming the hottest day ever. In the same month, in the USA, the highest temperatures were 46.6°C in Portland and 54.4°C in California. It is because of the heat dome phenomenon, and the heat waves caused more than 500 deaths in both countries. On the other hand, in Brazil, which is in South America, an abnormal climate occurred with snow falling for three days in a row, even though the temperature does not fall below minus zero even in the middle of winters normally. Korea is also experiencing abnormal weather with frequent guerrilla showers and the slowest rainy season in 39 years. This article will explain specific weather abnormalities like heat domes and explain what efforts are being made around the world to prepare for such an abnormal climate.
1. Abnormal climate
- Heat Dome
A heat dome is an atmospheric phenomenon, which is caused when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air, as if it is bounded by a giant press cooker. In other words, the high-pressure acts as a cap so the hot air in that place continues to accumulate. The heat dome, which occurred in North America in June and took the lives of a lot of people and is considered as one of the causes of the abnormal high-temperature phenomenon seen around the world in recent years. When a heat dome occurs, hot air is trapped in the heat dome and abnormally high temperatures and heat waves occur in that area Additionally, the heat dome does not easily disappear. Also, it is impossible to remove it, and it causes harmful results like heat waves occurring during the day or in tropical climates at night because it’s hard to cool down the temperature which has already gone up. In 2018, Korea and European countries already experienced suffering from a heat dome. In 2018, in Korea, three typhoons changed their routes and one disappeared because of the heat dome effect. The elevated temperature caused by this phenomenon led many people to suffer from heat stroke of which the mortality rate is 50%. Heat stroke leads to an increase in the mortality rate of patients with heat-affected diseases, by 4% for cardiovascular system patients, 5% for the urinogenital organs patients, and 7% for nervous system patients. Thus, special caution is needed.
Korea’s heatwave in 2018, the longest rainy season in 2020, the late rainy season in 2021 and the heat dome which is described above are all caused by something called ‘blocking’. Blocking, like its name shows, happens when the atmospheric flow is blocked and stays long in the same place. It becomes hard to forecast weather changes such as the longest rainy season in 2020 because air stays in the same place for a longtime when blocking occurs. Blocking is a phenomenon that happens when a specific weather system in the area mainly affected by the stagnant situation lasts for more than 5 days and up to 2 weeks. The cause of the North American heatwave that occurred in June was that this blocking continued for a long time, and that's the reason North America experienced its worst heatwave ever.
This atmospheric stagnation happens because of climate change. As glaciers melt and global warming worsens, the power of jet stream, which traps the Arctic’s cold air, gets weakened. As the jet stream, which moves the atmosphere to the east-west direction, gets weakened, the atmospheric flow between the north and the south becomes active, resulting in blocking in unpredictable areas.
2. Coping with abnormal weather
As global warming which is caused by green-house gases is getting worse, abnormal climates such as the heat dome that have not been seen in the past frequently occur. So, what kind of efforts are countries and companies around the world making to prevent these abnormal climates?
- Coping with global green-house gases
First, the global efforts to cope with climate changes through the international conference are as follows:
(1) United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972): This was an international conference, also called the Stockholm Conference, which addressed environmental issues for the first time.
(2) UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992): The main goal of advanced countries is to limit the emission of various greenhouse gases including CO2 and to prevent global warming, with no legal binding force.
(3) Kyoto Protocol (1997): Reduces emissions of six types of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, and applies non-tariff barriers to countries that do not reduce emissions.
(4) Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2016): Aims to limit the increase of the global average temperature below 2°C and strive to keep it from exceeding 1.5°C. It has great significance as it was the first universal climate agreement binding on all 195 Parties, unlike the Kyoto Protocol, which mandated only advanced countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Also, the governments of many countries are trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through ‘emissions trading’. Emissions trading means the right to emit greenhouse gas only within the specified emission limits that the government sets for companies. The right of emission can be allocated or purchased from the government and can be traded between target companies. Countries that are located around the Alpine glaciers also cover the glaciers with huge white waterproof coverings to keep them from melting. Just covering the glaciers with waterproof materials may not seem to slow the melting of the glaciers, but it actually does work. The waterproof clothes are made from tarpaulin, which is often used for tents, so they are strong against moisture and rotting, and reflect all sunlight, so they can protect 70% of snow successfully during the summer.
- ESG development of companies
When each country is trying to prevent global warming, companies are also rapidly adjusting to ESG-style operations. ESG is an abbreviation of ‘Environmental, Social, Governance’ and used as a standard to evaluate companies’ non-financial results. Among them, the E, which stands for environmental includes factors such as climate change impacts, reduction of environmental pollutants at workplaces, and development of eco-friendly products. The reason why profit-oriented companies pursue non-financial actions is because of not only climate change, but consumers’ values about the company’s role have also changed. In other words, customers’ expectations have changed from existing values which were only the profits to expectations that companies should solve social problems through responsible management activities and take actions that will have positive impacts on our lives. Lots of companies make efforts to run eco-friendly management. Microsoft has already created a $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund to support the development of carbon removal technology over the next four years. Recently, the concept of ‘Carbon Negative’ has been introduced, which removes more carbon than emitted by 2030, making net emissions negative. Patagonia, an American outdoor brand, is known as an eco-friendly company to the extent that it advertises 'Don't buy this jacket!' These advertisements have the intention to tell that 60% of the jackets were made of recycled materials, but 20 pounds(about 9kg) of carbon was emitted in the process, and two-thirds of the jackets are thrown away no matter how long they have been worn. Patagonia also donates 1% of its sales annually to environmental groups under the name of 'tax to the earth' and produces clothing products based on recycled fabrics and organic cotton. Also in Korea, various companies are being reborn as ESG development companies. Samsung Electronics strengthens its eco-friendly processes by using recycled plastic in the manufacturing stage after announcing ‘Green Management Vision’ in 2009. SK also conducted ESG management by advancing into the hydrogen business, which is an eco-friendly energy source. In addition to these companies, various companies are growing into ESG companies, such as Naver's '2040 Carbon Negative' plan, Kakao's goal to complete an eco-friendly data center, and Daangn market’s new business model of resource reuse.
Many people are working hard to prevent the abnormal climate problems described above. However, as global warming is accelerating, more active measures are needed. No one wants to spend their whole life in the heat or strange weather like the giant pressure cooker we saw this summer. To do this, we should constantly follow the methods we hear all the time, such as checking whether the company of the products we consume is an ESG company, removing the labels attached to the plastic bottles when separating garbage, using second-hand items frequently, and keeping the air conditioner at an appropriate temperature like 26 degrees.< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >