Green values are essential for our national well-being
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.