▲ Near Ora-dong, tangerines hang heavy on their branches early in the 2009 harvest season. Photo by Kang Bong Soo
To some, global warming is a blessing. Melting Arctic ice is opening up the North Pole to drilling. Over 400 billion barrels of crude oil is believed to be buried under the permafrost according to an estimate of Wood Mackinzie, a research and consulting firm for the global mining, metal, and energy industry.
To the chagrin of environmentalists who warn of the danger of looming climate change, the very industry that triggered global warming is being rewarded for their deeds. The melting Arctic is also good news for global maritime business as it will shorten the shipping distance from Korea, Japan and China to Europe by one third.
The net gain earned from global warming may soon outweigh the negative loss in Jeju as well, as many farmers and fishermen on the island are eyeing opportunities to capitalize on climate change.
“Each degree of temperature rise pushes up the upper limit of arable land for tropical crops by 100 kilometers,” said Jeon Sung Jong, a researcher at National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science who studies agricultural tactics against the climate change. Jeon’s lab has been testing the feasibility of growing over 30 tropical and sub-tropical crops on the island since 2008.
Thanks to rising temperatures, Jeju tangerines are now able to be grown on the southern tip of the mainland as well, cutting into the incomes of the island’s tangerine farmers.
To ward off the growing threat from the mainland, local tangerine growers are now turning to mango, guava, dragon fruit, papaya and other tropical fruits which are more profitable than tangerines.
“Mango plants need to be kept at between 22 to 35 degrees Celsius in greenhouse but I didn’t have to warm them recently since the weather is hot enough,” said Kang Cheol Joon in an interview with a local daily. He has grown mangos on the island since 2004.
Off the coast of Pyoseon, some 400 bluefin tuna are now grown in the seven giant cages moored 40 meters below the surface. The tuna were caught near Chuja-do last October when they were about 2 to 3 kilograms in weight. They have now grown to 15 kilograms each and will be out to the market when they reach 35 kilograms.
Harvesting the blue gold of the ocean in Jeju waters has also become feasible thanks to the rising sea water temperature in the peninsula. The average surface temperature of Korea’s southern seas has risen by 1.7 degrees Celsius over the past 10 years according to data released on May 28 by the Korea Hydrographic and Oceanographic Administration.
On the tourism front, however, Jeju seems to be losing some opportunities though. The sea level around the Yong-meori tuff cone has risen by 22.8 centimeters since 1970, increasing the off-limit hours to the island’s tourist gem from 4 hours to upward of 8 hours a day recently.
Is climate change a net gain or net loss for the island? The Korea Economic Institute projected last April that the country will face over 800 trillion won in economic losses by 2100 as the average temperature of Korea will rise by 4 degrees Celsius. It remains to be seen how much money the island’s farmers and fishermen would be able to cancel out from the country’s projected loss by cultivating tropical crops and fish stock in Jeju.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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