|▲ Climate experts, youth activists and scientists taking the stage at the UN Change Conference COP 25 in Madrid, Spain on December 10, 2019 (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty)
Over the past few months, wildfires have been raging across Australia. Millions of hectares of forestry have been burned to the ground, and countless animals have died or lost their homes to the flames. The Fire Season is unfortunately not a new phenomenon in Australia, but this year, it has reached extreme levels, spreading far beyond the capacities of human control. Global warming is the biggest culprit in this devastation. With the average temperature rising each year, the already warm summer climate in Australia has become hotter still.
Of course, Australia is not the only country that is struggling with changes in the climate. More and more countries are beginning to realize the severity of climate change, but even though global warming has never been talked about as much as it is these days, the worsening state of the environment does not appear to be slowing down. This is a problem that affects everyone, everywhere in the planet. Therefore, the Chonnam Tribune sought to ask students their opinion on the matter.
The fires in Australia have been particularly extreme this year. Why do you think this is?
Brian (Australia): There are several contributing factors. Australia has experienced a drought period with very little rain. This means fires are more likely to start, especially considering how hot the temperature has become. The Australian government has also ceased the practice of controlled burning—starting small, easily manageable fires to burn away the dry leaves and twigs on the ground—which means there has been a lot more fuel for fire to spread.
Farzona (Uzbekistan): Australia has a lot of forestry, so the hot climate can easily cause huge fires that spread too fast for people to control. No one can deny that global warming has caused the weather to be unnaturally warm and dry, which makes it too easy for fires to start if people are not careful.
What kind of long-term effects do you think the wildfires will have on the environment?
Otto (Finland): It will certainly affect the eco system. When this many plants and animals die, there are going to be consequences. It might not show immediately, but over time, we will definitely be able to see the negative effects of losing such a huge part of the eco system. Of course, there are also immediate effects, such as air pollution and ash spreading over the sea
Hyeon-seok (South Korea): We humans live in partnership with nature. We need a lot of resources from the environment, especially from plants and animals, so wildfires like these can have serious effects on our daily lives. For example, if we look at Australia, we can see very few people live in the center of the continent due to the dry and unfertile land. After the wildfire, even more of the land has now become damaged and unfit for both humans and animals to inhabit.
What do you think the government could do to combat this issue?
Farzona: I do not think this is something the government can do alone. Of course, they should be more vigilant in the future, but it is not just the government who needs to be alert. The whole country needs to be aware and careful, and ready to volunteer their time and effort to help in any way they can.
Brian: Regarding the current situation, I think the government did what it could do. Thousands of volunteer firefighters were dispatched to try and put out the fires. For the future, I think the government should enforce the laws that ban fires across the country.
Are there any specific topics within climate change you frequently hear about in your everyday life?
Otto: These days, I keep hearing that you should not fly airplanes due to carbon dioxide emissions as well as the cost and efficiency it takes to create and maintain aircrafts. There are far more environmentally friendly ways to travel.
Hyeon-seok: In order to slow down the damage to the earth, I have heard that companies and governments are developing eco-friendly factories. I have also seen a lot more electric cars on the streets recently, so it seems like companies are striving to innovate alternative methods to keep their customers satisfied while also saving the planet.
Several acting governments have proposed higher tax rates in order to fund the battle against global warming. What do you think of this solution?
Otto: While it is a nice thought to have more money to combat this issue, I do not think raising taxes is going to work. There are always going to be countries whose tax rates remain low, and that can cause businesses to move their operations to those cheaper countries instead. This would lead to more unemployment.
Farzona: Rather than taxes, I think more effort into donations and charities would be better. There are many people who want to help the environment and have the financial opportunity to do so. Raising taxes can affect poor people very badly, and not many people would be happy about it.
Do you have any thoughts on what we as individuals could do in order to slow down global warming?
Hyeon-seok: I am not a scientist, but I personally believe the key problems of the changing climate are the factories and major companies, not individual people. Of course, there are still some things ordinary people can do, such as recycling and using public transportation instead of cars to reduce the amount of pollution in the air.
Brian: There are a lot of small things we can do. A good start can be “The Three Rs”: Reuse, reduce, recycle. Reuse old things instead of buying new, reduce the amount of stuff you waste, and recycle your trash. Buying local and seasonal products is also a good way to reduce the carbon footprint of imported products and encourage naturally grown products instead of mass-production.
Whether it is in Australia or anywhere else on the planet, the effects of climate change are becoming more and more severe. It is good to see the leaders of the world finally begin to take it more seriously, but if they only spend their time talking about the issue instead of taking action, it will be too late. Cases like the fires in Australia will not only repeat themselves, but they might happen all over the world. We can lose more of our precious earth to the dangers of global warming, and it will be more difficult than ever to recover. Therefore, it is important for each and every one of us to consider our actions in our everyday lives, and try our best to do what we can for our planet’s wellbeing.
By Maja Elisabeth von Bruun, Tribune Reporter
Li Brian, PhD Student, Dept. of Archeology, Australia
Rakhimova Farzona, Sophomore, Faculty of Business Administration, Uzbekistan
Otto Alexander Högstedt, Senior, Dept. of Political Science and International Relations, Finland
Kim Hyeon-seok, Senior, Dept. of English Language and Literature, South Korea