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Energy-intensive production has been both a leading contributor to climate change as well as one of the keys to modern economic growth over the last several centuries. In the post-WWII era, the “economic miracles” of Asian growth—starting with Japan, and followed by South Korea, Taiwan, China, and now increasingly India—have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. At the same time, these “economic miracles” have created huge pollution problems which have adversely affected the health of millions of people while speeding up the effects of climate change.
Some early developers from this group—including Japan—have made efforts to clean up their air and water, created more energy efficient economies, lowered their carbon footprints and contributed to initiatives to slow global warming. The Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster forced Japan to take even more aggressive action to reduce energy consumption and lessen its impact on the global environment. In contrast, the United States, as a sizeable nation-state both in its geographic area and economy, is one of the world’s largest polluters and recently made recent headlines when it withdrew from the Paris Agreement negotiated at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21).
Putting into place effective measures to curtail climate change while creating sustainable societies requires international cooperation. The series of extreme weather events in the US this fall are only the most recent disasters to remind us of climate change’s threat to our economy, our society, and our individual daily lives.
Over the last 25 years, the Abe Fellowship Program has supported a number of fellows whose research projects address the issues related to climate change and environmental degradation. For this event, a selection of these expert fellows addressed strategies for limiting carbon emissions while sustaining growth, to what extent renewable energies can contribute in slowing climate change, and other issues pertinent to climate change and sustainable societies.
A new initiative of the Abe Fellowship Program, the Abe Fellows Global Forum (Abe Global) is designed to bring Abe Fellow research and expertise on pressing issues of global concern to broader audiences. Abe Global will host several events each year in partnership with academic and civic organizations throughout the United States. The Abe Fellowship Program is a partnership between the Social Science Research Council and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
Flooding from Hurricane Harvey Image Credit: SC National Guard/Flickr (All rights reserved)