Abe Fellowship Program and Social Science Research Council
This report was produced for the Abe Fellows Global Forum 2017 symposiums on climate change, held in partnership with Stanford University's Walter H. Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center (Abe Global | Stanford, October 20, 2017) and the Asia Society Texas Center (Abe Global | Houston, October 18, 2017), respectively.
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 in 2017 are only some the most recent disasters to remind us of climate change’s threat to our economy, our society, and our individual daily lives.