<GLEC Korea 2017 중등부 논술대회 수상자>
Essay Topic - SDGs Goal 13
United States President Donald Trump recently announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreements, despite the fact that the United States is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. The Paris Climate Agreements is not only limited to environmental issues, but also influences a wide range of fields including energy, society, industry, and investments. How does the withdrawal of great powers like the United States affect the goal to achieve SDGs? Also, what kind of efforts can the international society make to solve such problems?
Grand Prize Winner's Essay
In yet another one of his highly controversial decisions, President Trump has announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate Agreement, sparking protests from environmental groups and ordinary citizens alike. The consequences of the United States leaving this agreement may be as far-reaching as to harm the stability of the entire cause of protecting the environment, as other states may be compelled to follow the United States' example.
The chief incentive behind Trump's decision is that protecting the environment hinders economic growth. This impulse, to prioritize economic development over lessening environmental damage, is even stronger in countries that are still developing. Therefore, the natural solution is to line up these two opposing incentives so that they are no longer mutually exclusive, so that countries can protect the environment while promoting their own economies.
The first solution targets this goal by decreasing the costs associated with curbing climate change. Currently, most efforts are centered on campaigns that aim to spread awareness about such environmental problems, to bring about altered behaviors like carpooling, recycling, and pulling the plug on electrical appliances. The cost of these campaigns amount to billions of dollars per year. Moreover, the effectiveness of these methods are questionable, as many people continue to be skeptical about climate change and refuse to change their habits. Also, it is implausible to expect that a sudden cessation of greenhouse gases will turn our environment back into its original pristine state; we have already been abusing the Earth for so long that the harmful gases will remain in the atmosphere and plague us for years.
This is precisely why scientists perceived a need for way to clean up the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Drawing from the real-life example of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, they were able to figure out a correlation between sulfur dioxide and a drop in the global temperature. Continued studies revealed that sulfur dioxide, when injected into the stratosphere, acted as a screen to deflect the sun's rays, in effect increasing the Earth's albedo. Scientists calculate the costs of maintaining a sulfur dioxide plant for these purposes as anywhere from 2to 20 million dollars. This is not a small sum, but this cost can be divided among the countries. Science promises near-immediate effects and no long-term harm to the environment. If the procedure works as it did in real-life examples, a small amount of sulfur dioxide will in effect offset the entirety of global warming.
The second proposal, concerning artificial intelligence, is a little more tentative, but is slated to be a major source of economic investment. AI is one of the chief inventions associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and is also expected to help humanity cope with climate change. AlphaGo creator Demis Hassabis, when lecturing at KAIST the past year, mentioned potential fields that artificial intelligence could potentially have a hand in the years to come; included were economics, finance, and climate change. These fields share the common thread of uncertainty-economics and finance because they involve free human decisions, and climate change because supercomputers are currently unable ti process the immense amounts of meterological data into a meaningful result. AI helps because it eliminates the choices they are not immediately important. its ability to narrow down and make intuitively good decisions allows it to draw useful conclusions about our climate. This is of paramount importance to all countries, as climate change has caused bizarre weather and significant economic losses in the aftermath. Investing in artificial intelligence to predict natural disasters will surely yield economic benefits in the short run by lessening damage costs, and result in long-term economic benefits as the world rides on the wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The economic advantages of the aforementioned two climate change solutions specifically target the ever-present urge of worldwide framentation and selfishness when it comes to tackling problems like climate change. Such impulses are inevitable in a world fraught with different interests and nationalities, so the world mist pursue finding creative solutions to circumvent them. One practical way to do so is to align economic interests at the state level with environmental ones on a worldwide scale.