It is now prevalently acknowledged that the world is getting hotter. From the late 19th century until today, the topic of rising atmospheric temperatures and levels of the so-called global warming on Planet Earth has posed a great threat to humanity. The causes of global warming are attributed to the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as methane and carbon dioxide, largely produced by the burning of fossil fuels. This excess presence of greenhouse gases absorbs and re-emits heat radiation back into the atmosphere, ultimately leading to the rise of the globe’s overall temperature.
Most people are aware of this phenomenon, as they can easily “feel” the increasing temperature and the changing environment surrounding them. Summer heat, in particular, is gradually becoming more difficult to endure, which persuades people that climate change is real and is bringing about a serious impact to all. Moreover, various geographical and natural disasters, which result from melting glaciers and the consequent increasing sea levels, remind us of the catastrophic tragedies that global warming constantly brings about, including flood, earthquake, forest fire, hurricanes, and so on. However, these are the commonly known negative impacts of global warming, which focus on the consequences caused by the warming of atmospheric temperatures. More recently, this very same phenomenon has created striking effect that contradicts the popular notion of global warming: freezing temperatures in the winter – most notably, a freezing December due to the cold wave.
According to theory, global warming should have an effect of warming up the planet and increasing overall levels of temperature in the atmosphere. Recently, however, it has been commonly observed that during the winter, especially in December, the weather is becoming more and more frigid bringing along with it unbearable. On the surface, this incident might sound paradoxical since the activity goes against the commonly perceived effects of global warming; however, this phenomenon of the big freeze and the occurrence of the cold wave take up a big part in the process that drives climate change.
According to a Dong-a Ilbo article, the cold wave in December is not a new phenomenon of the year 2017 alone and its frequent incidence is mainly due to the influence of global warming. To explain, as ice glaciers melt in the North Pole due to warming atmospheric temperatures, the balance of the North Pole has been breaking up. It has continued to be disrupted since the early 2000s up to this day. More specifically, air torrents that had initially blocked cold polar winds from arriving over the North Pacific Ocean have become weak when temperatures of the North Pole elevated. As a result, the chilliness of the polar region journeys to different areas, one of which is the Korean Peninsula, located in the mid-latitude region.
The apparent issue of freezing December is also easily illustrated by various statistics. In Korea alone, there has been an increase in the number of hospital patients suffering from the freezing weather and related sicknesses such as hypothermia—an increase by 42.8% in 2017 compared to the previous year. The number of reported deaths from the cold also doubled. Furthermore, last December historically marked the coldest temperature of negative 15 degrees Celsius, while the wind chill temperatures plunged down even lower. These numbers clearly portray the seriousness of the cold wave spurred by global warming.
Do not be fooled by the idea that the cold wave is gravely impacting Korea simply due to its geographical location. Many states in the United States, such as North Dakota, Minnesota and Maine, also experienced the coldest winters in history, due to the occurrence of the cold wave. In addition, there is growing evidence and multiple records of the incidence of freezing December that aggravates the intensity of global warming, now characterized by the following two extremes: irritating hotness in the summer and extreme frigidity in the winter. As can be told by this instance, climate change knows no borders and remains a problem for all of humanity.
This frightening status quo of the continuing process of global warming and its impacts is indeed alarming. However, why is it that the issue of climate change is not getting any better, but only poses a greater threat to humanity, despite the advancements in technology which can help us efficiently deal with such ordeals? The modern technological developments are not used and diffused effectively to combat the dangers of global warming in the contemporary era. The most prominent reason for this is because people simply do not care. The reason is not that people are ignorant of their changing surroundings but that they neglect such problems, resulting from apathy towards collaboratively creating an environment-friendly and safe world.
Although the world continues to become more intricately interconnected in this globalized society, the problem of global warming has been difficult to address harmoniously. Despite the regular international summits and conferences that foster unity and collaboration, as well as countless other endeavors by various organizations around the world, there are still numerous countries with different interest groups that voice clashing opinions among themselves. Such discordance prevents us from forming a clear consensus and makes it more difficult to generate concrete solutions.
For this reason, it is improbable that humanity would conquer this war against climate change overnight. Continuous efforts for a gradual formation of a common consensus among fellow individuals, states, and organizations are vital to resolve this global challenge. However, it is not just the leaders of a country that have the responsibility to voice this need, but is the responsibility of every individual to join the struggle to fight this war for future generations to enjoy lives of equal quality than what is doomed to come.