Kookmin People

An Interview with Professor Lim Chul-Hee

  • 23.04.10 / 이해인
Date 2023-04-10 Hit 5065

 

At the Fall Meeting December 12-16, 2022 of the American Geophysical Union, Professor Lim Chul-Hee of KMU’s College of General Education was the only Korean researcher to hold a special session, titled “Ecosystem Services in the Era of Climate Change: Carbon Neutrality, Resilient Pathways, and Future Policy.” The Kookmin Review conducted an inspiring interview with Professor Lim about carbon neutrality and our future.

 

1. You hosted a special session called “Ecosystem Services in the Era of Climate Change: Carbon Neutrality, Resilient Pathways, and Future Policy.” What is an ecosystem service?

The term “ecosystem service” is often used in fields that deal with the natural environment. Natural ecosystems have various functions; they purify the air, reduce fine dust, absorb greenhouse gases, and make you feel good when you take a walk. These effects are not seen simply as functions of trees, but more as services that trees provide to people. The term is also used to compare the economic value of damaged and undamaged ecosystems. Development generates value, such as homes and parking lots. In relation to the protection or restoration of damaged ecosystems, an ecosystem is seen as holding value as well. In short, “ecosystem service” refers to a function of an ecosystem that is advantageous for humans.

 

2. As can be seen in extreme weather events such as the massive rainfall last summer in South Korea, climate change is an ongoing issue. How does climate change affect ecosystem services?

The session we hosted was about enhancing ecosystem services and addressing climate change effectively. No matter how hard we work to build dams, install sewage systems, or develop new technologies, we face limits. So, we decided to maximize the intrinsic functions that ecosystems offer. They absorb greenhouse gases, and soil and trees retain water to prevent excessive run-off during heavy rains. When it is hot, trees provide shade, lower geothermal heat, and reduce the effects of urban heat islands. These various ecosystem functions are threatened as climate change accelerates. Plants and trees are damaged by various aspects of climate change, including heavy rains and droughts. Still, there are two means of managing these ecosystem changes. The first is adaptation, which focuses on ways of adjusting plants and trees to the future climate. The second is climate change mitigation, which involves slowing climate change by increasing the absorption of greenhouse gases.

 

3. Your team also spoke about measures for coping with climate change through the restoration of peatlands in Indonesia. What are peatlands and how do they help address the issue of climate change?

Peat is the first step in the process of coal formation. Over time, but not long enough for the formation of coal and oil, organic matter accumulates, forming a moist soil rich in carbon. But this soil is not as efficient a fuel source as coal. In the past, peatlands were considered useless spaces. Recently, however, peatlands have been growing in importance. When developing local areas, people set peatlands on fire, releasing carbon from the soil. The result of this is the same as that of burning coal. However, if peatlands are left alone, the carbon stored there remains fixed in the ground. In other words, protecting peatlands helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Let me give an example. Peatlands are mostly located in Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia. In Indonesia, the practice of planting palm trees in peatlands is now increasing. As a matter of fact, owners of peatlands want to plow the ground and grow palm trees to make money. But what I want to point out is that peatlands have intrinsic value, and to realize it, we have to approach the issue from the perspective of ecosystem services.

 

4. We were told that carbon neutrality was another topic discussed in the session. What is carbon neutrality and why is it important?

Climate change has many causes. The biggest artificial cause is the emission of greenhouse gases. These gases increase the greenhouse effect, leading the overall average temperature of the Earth to increase. With the change that has occurred in this cycle, climate change is now here. A number of countries are doing their best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have made international agreements. At this rate, reducing greenhouse gases will realize carbon neutrality. To be specific, carbon neutrality involves minimizing the emission of carbon and utilizing emitted carbon as a material. All countries are planning to achieve certain levels of carbon neutrality. Korea is aiming to accomplish carbon neutrality from 2020 to 2050. Yet, it is impossible to completely stop carbon emissions. Even if all energy generation were substituted with renewable energy, it would be difficult to utilize carbon as ingredients completely. Thus, people are collecting carbon that has been absorbed by ecosystems or exists in the atmosphere and putting it in empty underground spaces that are the result of coal, oil, and natural gas extraction. This technology is called carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). CCUS, or ecosystem absorption, can
handle the carbon that cannot be used to produce other materials. This is the way toward carbon neutrality.

 

5. South Korea has announced that it plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. What is the current situation?

To put it frankly, achieving carbon neutrality is a challenging project for South Korea, considering the characteristics of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. South Korea is short on resources in almost every respect, with this shortage being mitigated by various technologies.Firstly, we are short on fossil fuels. At the beginning of South Korea’s industrialization, we were not using large amounts of fossil fuels, but the country now has a number of heavy industries that refine fossil fuels to make products such as automobiles. On the other hand, Scandinavian countries have few manufacturing companies, meaning that their greenhouse gas emissions are relatively small, which might put them at a comparative advantage in terms of achieving carbon neutrality. While it is important to both minimize carbon emissions and maximize carbon absorption, minimizing emissions is not easy.Some people say that electrification is the way to minimize carbon emissions. However, the problem with electricity is that around 60% of it is produced using fossil fuels, which means that driving an electric car actually requires burning fossil fuels. There are also people who say that fossil fuels in electricity generation can be replaced with renewable energy resources. However, South Korea is also short on meteorological resources. Whereas the essence of meteorological resources is the weather, South Korea is mostly windy and has seasonal winds that change direction with the season. Compared to areas such as California, where it is sunny all day with westerlies, South Korea is low on solar and wind energy resources, which means that wind turbines are inefficient sources of energy. In a nutshell, the achievement of carbon neutrality in South Korea by 2050 seems quite challenging compared to other countries.

 

6. When considering carbon neutrality, we tend to expect corporations and governments to take action. What are things that individuals can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

There are mainly two contributions that individuals can make toward the achievement of carbon neutrality. The first is responsible consumption, since it is the role of consumers to force corporations to pursue carbon neutrality. Based on the demand of responsible consumers, consumers are implementing ESG management, among other initiatives. However, the concepts of greenwashing and ESG washing are emerging and becoming increasingly common. Once consumers become more familiar with these concepts, they will be able to distinguish between green washing and true ESG management. The second contribution that individuals and KMU students can make toward carbon neutrality is to reduce their consumption of electricity. Although it might be difficult to reduce electricity use in winter, when heating is a necessity, we can still choose not to use things such as elevators, for example. Considering the route of our school, it might be inevitable not to use elevators at all, but deciding not to use elevators would help us reduce energy consumption and also stay healthy.

 

7. We were told that you have convinced scholars of the merit of nature-based solutions. What is a nature-based solution and how will it help us achieve carbon neutrality and adapt to climate change?

Nature-based solutions are in the same context of ecosystem services. Whereas ecosystem services are concepts based on the conversion of ecological functions into economic value, nature-based solutions involve turning such ecological functions into solutions for coping with climate change issues. As nature can prevent landslides or offer shelter during intense rainfall, a nature-based solution overcomes nature which is being artificially by human activities, using nature itself.

 

8. We heard that you have contributed to informing the foundation and activities of Kookmin University’s Center for Climate Crisis of the university’s Future Korea Institute, and Center for Net-Zero and Green Growth Research. Could you introduce each center to our readers?

The Center for Climate Crisis conducts general research on the Korean Peninsula, including its political and social dimensions such as the reunification of North and South Korea. I and my coworkers, as scholars who study the climate, have decided to study not only the socio-political aspects of the Korean Peninsula but also its climate and environment. Some ongoing research of the Center for Climate Crisis are climate change adaptation through the protection of forests and ecosystems and ways of coping with climate change through AI technologies. We also study the issue of climate inequality, especially areas that generate less emissions but do relatively more harm. Additionally, since the Future Korea Institute deals with cooperation between North and South Korea, we also seek to answer the question: “How will North and South Korea cooperate to deal with the issue of climate change?”

Secondly, the Center for Net-Zero and Green Growth Research, which was founded at the end of last year, supports the pursuit of carbon neutrality by local governments. Although the Carbon Neutrality Act states that local governments should engage in relevant activities, local government officers lack the professional knowledge necessary to implement such activities properly. Therefore, the Center for Net-Zero and Green Growth Research helps these local governments establish their carbon neutrality plans to get closer to carbon neutrality at the local level.

 

9. Is there anything you would like to add to raise KMU students’ awareness of the issue of environmental protection?

I believe that actions are important, but attention is more important than anything. Although it has been 20 to 30 years since the issue of climate change fully entered the public consciousness, we are still in the early stages. However, we will be experiencing more of the effect of climate change in the near future. KMU students will have to deal with these effects, and therefore more attention is needed. Carbon neutrality and climate change are topics that students in all disciplines can think about, since all academic fields play a role in the issue of climate change. Climate change is multidisciplinary as well as interdisciplinary. I strongly recommend that all our students take a closer look at climate change and our environment.

 

 

 

Kim Seo-Hyun, Yoon Sang-Jung 
Editor-in-Chief, Reporter

aprilkim404@kookmin.ac.kr


ann8959@kookmin.ac.kr

 

An Interview with Professor Lim Chul-Hee

Date 2023-04-10 Hit 5065

 

At the Fall Meeting December 12-16, 2022 of the American Geophysical Union, Professor Lim Chul-Hee of KMU’s College of General Education was the only Korean researcher to hold a special session, titled “Ecosystem Services in the Era of Climate Change: Carbon Neutrality, Resilient Pathways, and Future Policy.” The Kookmin Review conducted an inspiring interview with Professor Lim about carbon neutrality and our future.

 

1. You hosted a special session called “Ecosystem Services in the Era of Climate Change: Carbon Neutrality, Resilient Pathways, and Future Policy.” What is an ecosystem service?

The term “ecosystem service” is often used in fields that deal with the natural environment. Natural ecosystems have various functions; they purify the air, reduce fine dust, absorb greenhouse gases, and make you feel good when you take a walk. These effects are not seen simply as functions of trees, but more as services that trees provide to people. The term is also used to compare the economic value of damaged and undamaged ecosystems. Development generates value, such as homes and parking lots. In relation to the protection or restoration of damaged ecosystems, an ecosystem is seen as holding value as well. In short, “ecosystem service” refers to a function of an ecosystem that is advantageous for humans.

 

2. As can be seen in extreme weather events such as the massive rainfall last summer in South Korea, climate change is an ongoing issue. How does climate change affect ecosystem services?

The session we hosted was about enhancing ecosystem services and addressing climate change effectively. No matter how hard we work to build dams, install sewage systems, or develop new technologies, we face limits. So, we decided to maximize the intrinsic functions that ecosystems offer. They absorb greenhouse gases, and soil and trees retain water to prevent excessive run-off during heavy rains. When it is hot, trees provide shade, lower geothermal heat, and reduce the effects of urban heat islands. These various ecosystem functions are threatened as climate change accelerates. Plants and trees are damaged by various aspects of climate change, including heavy rains and droughts. Still, there are two means of managing these ecosystem changes. The first is adaptation, which focuses on ways of adjusting plants and trees to the future climate. The second is climate change mitigation, which involves slowing climate change by increasing the absorption of greenhouse gases.

 

3. Your team also spoke about measures for coping with climate change through the restoration of peatlands in Indonesia. What are peatlands and how do they help address the issue of climate change?

Peat is the first step in the process of coal formation. Over time, but not long enough for the formation of coal and oil, organic matter accumulates, forming a moist soil rich in carbon. But this soil is not as efficient a fuel source as coal. In the past, peatlands were considered useless spaces. Recently, however, peatlands have been growing in importance. When developing local areas, people set peatlands on fire, releasing carbon from the soil. The result of this is the same as that of burning coal. However, if peatlands are left alone, the carbon stored there remains fixed in the ground. In other words, protecting peatlands helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Let me give an example. Peatlands are mostly located in Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia. In Indonesia, the practice of planting palm trees in peatlands is now increasing. As a matter of fact, owners of peatlands want to plow the ground and grow palm trees to make money. But what I want to point out is that peatlands have intrinsic value, and to realize it, we have to approach the issue from the perspective of ecosystem services.

 

4. We were told that carbon neutrality was another topic discussed in the session. What is carbon neutrality and why is it important?

Climate change has many causes. The biggest artificial cause is the emission of greenhouse gases. These gases increase the greenhouse effect, leading the overall average temperature of the Earth to increase. With the change that has occurred in this cycle, climate change is now here. A number of countries are doing their best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have made international agreements. At this rate, reducing greenhouse gases will realize carbon neutrality. To be specific, carbon neutrality involves minimizing the emission of carbon and utilizing emitted carbon as a material. All countries are planning to achieve certain levels of carbon neutrality. Korea is aiming to accomplish carbon neutrality from 2020 to 2050. Yet, it is impossible to completely stop carbon emissions. Even if all energy generation were substituted with renewable energy, it would be difficult to utilize carbon as ingredients completely. Thus, people are collecting carbon that has been absorbed by ecosystems or exists in the atmosphere and putting it in empty underground spaces that are the result of coal, oil, and natural gas extraction. This technology is called carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). CCUS, or ecosystem absorption, can
handle the carbon that cannot be used to produce other materials. This is the way toward carbon neutrality.

 

5. South Korea has announced that it plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. What is the current situation?

To put it frankly, achieving carbon neutrality is a challenging project for South Korea, considering the characteristics of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. South Korea is short on resources in almost every respect, with this shortage being mitigated by various technologies.Firstly, we are short on fossil fuels. At the beginning of South Korea’s industrialization, we were not using large amounts of fossil fuels, but the country now has a number of heavy industries that refine fossil fuels to make products such as automobiles. On the other hand, Scandinavian countries have few manufacturing companies, meaning that their greenhouse gas emissions are relatively small, which might put them at a comparative advantage in terms of achieving carbon neutrality. While it is important to both minimize carbon emissions and maximize carbon absorption, minimizing emissions is not easy.Some people say that electrification is the way to minimize carbon emissions. However, the problem with electricity is that around 60% of it is produced using fossil fuels, which means that driving an electric car actually requires burning fossil fuels. There are also people who say that fossil fuels in electricity generation can be replaced with renewable energy resources. However, South Korea is also short on meteorological resources. Whereas the essence of meteorological resources is the weather, South Korea is mostly windy and has seasonal winds that change direction with the season. Compared to areas such as California, where it is sunny all day with westerlies, South Korea is low on solar and wind energy resources, which means that wind turbines are inefficient sources of energy. In a nutshell, the achievement of carbon neutrality in South Korea by 2050 seems quite challenging compared to other countries.

 

6. When considering carbon neutrality, we tend to expect corporations and governments to take action. What are things that individuals can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

There are mainly two contributions that individuals can make toward the achievement of carbon neutrality. The first is responsible consumption, since it is the role of consumers to force corporations to pursue carbon neutrality. Based on the demand of responsible consumers, consumers are implementing ESG management, among other initiatives. However, the concepts of greenwashing and ESG washing are emerging and becoming increasingly common. Once consumers become more familiar with these concepts, they will be able to distinguish between green washing and true ESG management. The second contribution that individuals and KMU students can make toward carbon neutrality is to reduce their consumption of electricity. Although it might be difficult to reduce electricity use in winter, when heating is a necessity, we can still choose not to use things such as elevators, for example. Considering the route of our school, it might be inevitable not to use elevators at all, but deciding not to use elevators would help us reduce energy consumption and also stay healthy.

 

7. We were told that you have convinced scholars of the merit of nature-based solutions. What is a nature-based solution and how will it help us achieve carbon neutrality and adapt to climate change?

Nature-based solutions are in the same context of ecosystem services. Whereas ecosystem services are concepts based on the conversion of ecological functions into economic value, nature-based solutions involve turning such ecological functions into solutions for coping with climate change issues. As nature can prevent landslides or offer shelter during intense rainfall, a nature-based solution overcomes nature which is being artificially by human activities, using nature itself.

 

8. We heard that you have contributed to informing the foundation and activities of Kookmin University’s Center for Climate Crisis of the university’s Future Korea Institute, and Center for Net-Zero and Green Growth Research. Could you introduce each center to our readers?

The Center for Climate Crisis conducts general research on the Korean Peninsula, including its political and social dimensions such as the reunification of North and South Korea. I and my coworkers, as scholars who study the climate, have decided to study not only the socio-political aspects of the Korean Peninsula but also its climate and environment. Some ongoing research of the Center for Climate Crisis are climate change adaptation through the protection of forests and ecosystems and ways of coping with climate change through AI technologies. We also study the issue of climate inequality, especially areas that generate less emissions but do relatively more harm. Additionally, since the Future Korea Institute deals with cooperation between North and South Korea, we also seek to answer the question: “How will North and South Korea cooperate to deal with the issue of climate change?”

Secondly, the Center for Net-Zero and Green Growth Research, which was founded at the end of last year, supports the pursuit of carbon neutrality by local governments. Although the Carbon Neutrality Act states that local governments should engage in relevant activities, local government officers lack the professional knowledge necessary to implement such activities properly. Therefore, the Center for Net-Zero and Green Growth Research helps these local governments establish their carbon neutrality plans to get closer to carbon neutrality at the local level.

 

9. Is there anything you would like to add to raise KMU students’ awareness of the issue of environmental protection?

I believe that actions are important, but attention is more important than anything. Although it has been 20 to 30 years since the issue of climate change fully entered the public consciousness, we are still in the early stages. However, we will be experiencing more of the effect of climate change in the near future. KMU students will have to deal with these effects, and therefore more attention is needed. Carbon neutrality and climate change are topics that students in all disciplines can think about, since all academic fields play a role in the issue of climate change. Climate change is multidisciplinary as well as interdisciplinary. I strongly recommend that all our students take a closer look at climate change and our environment.

 

 

 

Kim Seo-Hyun, Yoon Sang-Jung 
Editor-in-Chief, Reporter

aprilkim404@kookmin.ac.kr


ann8959@kookmin.ac.kr

 

TOP