Green val­ues are es­sen­tial for our na­tional well-be­ing

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Six years af­ter it was first pro­posed, the Green­house Gas Re­duc­tion and Man­age­ment Act ( ) passed its third read­ing in the Leg­isla­tive Yuan this week. Kuom­intang (KMT) Leg­is­la­tor Chiu Wen-yen ( ) called it a “nearly im­pos­si­ble” feat. The bill, which legally re­quires in­dus­tries to re­duce their car­bon emis­sions to half the level of 2005 (251 mil­lion tons) by 2050, was rat­i­fied Mon­day with sup­port from both sides of the party di­vide.

It’s a mile­stone move that goes against many sec­tors’ in­ter­ests, and it is sur­pris­ing and im­pres­sive that the bill came through in the months be­fore a na­tional elec­tion.

The Green­house Gas Re­duc­tion and Man­age­ment Act and its rat­i­fi­ca­tion should be a sig­nal of how press­ing Tai­wan’s global-warm­ing re­lated prob­lems truly are. Left un­mit­i­gated, cli­mate change could ren­der most of Tai­wan’s po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic ques­tions moot.

“Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics de­rived from ob­ser­va­tions in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Hengchun, Taitung and Hualien, me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal sta­tions with records longer than a cen­tury, the an­nual mean tem­per­a­ture in the flat­land of Tai­wan has in­creased by 1.4 de­grees Cel­sius be­tween 1911 and 2009,” the Coun­cil for Eco­nomic Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment (

) wrote in its re­port “Adap­ta­tion Strat­egy to Cli­mate Change in Tai­wan” (June 2012).

“This is equiv­a­lent to the in­crease of 0.14 de­grees Cel­sius per decade, which is higher than the global mean warm­ing rate of 0.07 de­grees Cel­sius per decade.”

In re­cent years, global warm­ing has re­sulted in worse and worse droughts, more fre­quent ex­treme weather and the re­lease of a colos­sal quan­tity of melted ice. This ice has led to the steady in­crease in sea lev­els, which are eat­ing away at Tai­wan’s na­tional ter­ri­tory.

From 1993 to 2003, the sea level in nearby basins of Tai­wan rose by the rate of 5.7 mil­lime­ters per year, twice the rate recorded over the past 50 years, ac­cord­ing to the Coun­cil for Eco­nomic Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment. This rate is also sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the global av­er­age rate of 3.1 mil­lime­ters per year.

What this means is that Tai­wan, like other small is­land na­tions of the world, is on its way to dis­ap­pear­ing.

Wang Chung-ho ( ), a re­searcher at the Academia Sinica, has pre­dicted that most of the West Coast of Tai­wan and all of the Taipei basin will be sub­merged by ris­ing sea lev­els by 2100.

It’s a be­liev­able pre­dic­tion that is sim­i­lar to oth­ers. Sci­en­tists have said the sea will swal­low Tu­valu by 2045, over a thou­sand In­done­sian is­lands by 2050 and most of Kiri­bati be­fore the end of the cen­tury. For Tai­wan, the threat of ris­ing sea lev­els is par­tic­u­larly dire be­cause most of the pop­u­la­tion lives along the coast.

As a re­sponse to the threat, the Green­house Gas Re­duc­tion and Man­age­ment Act is sig­nif­i­cant, but it is not enough. An ef­fec­tive agree­ment de­pends on ef­fec­tive ac­tion from in­dus­tries and the gov­ern­ment, and from the in­di­vid­u­als within them. It is com­monly only when fun­da­men­tal shifts in think­ing oc­cur that sig­nif­i­cant re­sults fol­low.

For years, so­cial move­ments for and against the use of nu­clear power and other key is­sues have strongly politi­cized the dis­cus­sion of en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems con­fronting Tai­wan, im­pair­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of res­o­lu­tions. We hope that the new bill marks the start of a fun­da­men­tal shift in the way that in­di­vid­u­als talk about en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues: to a way that is char­ac­ter­ized by co­op­er­a­tion, re­spect and aware­ness that these prob­lems are tied to na­tional se­cu­rity and uni­ver­sal well-be­ing.

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