【Human & Environment】Global Climate Change and Its Effects by Prof. Wang Chung-Ho

By Leemen Lee

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January 9, 2010, School of Life and Living, School of Environmental Studies of Dharma Drum University, and DDM Social Welfare and Charity Foundation co-organized a forum on climate change at the Degui Academy. The forum invited Prof. Wang Chung-Ho, research fellow at the Institute of Earth Sciences of Academia Sinica, to give a speech on global climate change and its effects.

Climate change is the most urgent common threat to our civilizations, and from Kyoto Protocol to the recent COP15 the whole world is trying to cope with this challenge. Prof. Wang highlighted that the global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 1.1 to 6.4°C by the end of this century, resulting in hydrological change, food and water shortage, plus other dramatic effects.

“Every part of the eco-system on earth is inter-related, and the human society is merely a subsystem in this eco-system,” said Prof. Wang, “We are continuing paying immeasurable prices for our exploitation of the natural resources and the destruction of the eco-system. If we trace back to its root, we can conclude that many disasters and catastrophes are actually caused by human.” 

Prof. Wang attributed extreme weather events to global warming. Changes in thermal equilibrium and hydrology could result in dramatic effects such as water shortage, famine, and extinction of species. Shortage of resources may intensify conflicts among people and nations. The rise in temperature could also result in more diseases and challenges for public health. The human society is merely a small subsystem in an infinitely bigger eco-system. The unlimited exploitation of natural resources could only result in the destruction of these eco-systems.

Another worrisome problem of the greenhouse effect is the rising of sea level.  Throughout the world, some parts of the land in many countries are disappearing. Scientists predict that the sea ice of Arctic Ocean could disappear between 2020 and 2037. If the temperature continues to rise, many plains throughout Taiwan, including the Ping-Dong Plain, Taipei Basin, and Lang-Yang Plain, etc., will gradually disappear.

In March, 2008 the European Union issued a report for warnings on the continuation of global warming that could result in shortages of water resources and food. In rich countries that could result in recessions on a large scale. In poor countries, it could result in more poverty and the deterioration of public health. Furthermore, wars could break out for controls over scarce resources. 

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Prof. Wang stated further that the weather and the environment of Taiwan are changing rapidly as a result of global warming. In the future, it could affect the production of food as well as an increase in rainfall disparity and hydrological polarization. In addition, the carbon dioxide emission rate in Taiwan is at a staggering rate of 11.7%. It is way too high compared to the world average of only 4.1%. Therefore, there is definitely a huge space for improvement.

What can we do when facing and confronting these challenges on this large scale? Prof. Wang noted that if we are not friendly to the environment, the environment will not be friendly to us either. And the result of that for us will be living on a land of increasing hostility. We do not need more luxuries, but what we do need is the improvement in quality of life. What we are trying now is a revolution of the mind. We need to start from our mentality and ethics; we need to reconstruct the value and direction for our survival on Earth.

Prof. Yang Pei of Dharma Drum University recognized the foresight and the intention behind Master Sheng Yen’s establishment of the School of Environmental Studies for his caring of the common problems facing mankind. Dharma Drum University President Liu An-Chi pointed out that Dharma Drum University was found on the principles of social humanities. In the past, the field of scientific research puts too much emphasis toward technical proficiency. Nevertheless, at the Dharma Drum University we would like to start with a place from the inner self. And through the efforts through the schools of arts and culture, environment, philanthropy, and life and living, the university aims to contribute to the grand transformation from destruction to spiritual renewal and sustainability.