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Experts sound the alarm over South Korea's billion-dollar investments: 'Whatever we build ... will decide our future'

South Korea already invested $44.1 billion on new LNG carrier ships from 2013 to 2023.

South Korea already invested $44.1 billion on new LNG carrier ships from 2013 to 2023.

Photo Credit: iStock

South Korea is investing billions of dollars into dirty energy infrastructure that will largely go unused in the coming years, experts say.

What's happening?

Grist reported that South Korea is spending massive amounts of money on infrastructure for liquefied natural gas, also known as LNG. 

LNG is the result of a process that cools the gas until it turns into liquid, which makes it easier to transport — it must later undergo a regasification process. 

Moving LNG around requires a huge amount of infrastructure — South Korea already invested $44.1 billion on new LNG carrier ships from 2013 to 2023 and plans to spend another $5 billion on LNG terminals in the coming years, according to Grist.

Why are South Korea's LNG investments concerning?

South Korea has set a goal to transition to net-zero by 2050. In fact, the new LNG terminals are expected to fall to under 20% of capacity by 2036, leading to something known as "stranded assets." In simple terms, the government is pouring billions of dollars into something that will be obsolete soon — this will result in a massive loss of cash for the country.

New LNG terminals in the city of Dangjin will also add to health-harming pollution for residents. Already, locals are suffering from the effects of coal plants, which cause 210 premature deaths each year, Grist reported, citing a 2021 report.

Plus, the country's LNG strategy slows progress toward a renewable future while doubling down on dirty energy sources. 

"Whatever we build at this point will decide our future," Sejong Youn, founder of the climate policy advocacy organization Plan 1.5, told Grist. "Expanding gas infrastructure locks our country into a fossil fuel system." 

Natural gas currently accounts for 22% of all planet-warming pollution. If we don't curb our use of natural gas, oil and coal, scientists predict a number of dangerous outcomes including higher temperatures, longer lasting droughts, flooding, and stronger storms.

What's being done about our warming planet?

Activists in Dangjin have already successfully halted government investment in coal there, according to Grist. Plus, there is a push for developing more renewable energy in the country. 

Globally, some governments are trying to cut their pollution. For instance, Wales is banning most new roadway projects to cut down on carbon. Plus, Scotland is turning many urban neighborhoods into "20-minute cities" to give residents easier access to public transit. And Los Angeles outlawed gas power in all newly constructed buildings.

You can help out by curbing your own consumption of planet-polluting fuels. One way to do this is by changing the way you get around — try riding your bike more often, taking public transportation when possible, or making your next car an EV.

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