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30th Blue Planet Prize Winners Prof. Ramanathan: Contributing to Mitigating Climate Change Prof. Munasinghe: Creating Sustainomics


On June 16, the Asahi Glass Foundation (Director Takaya Shimamura) announced the winners of the 2021 (30th) Blue Planet Award. This year’s award winners are Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan (Professor, Scripps Institute, Institute for Marine Studies, University of California, San Diego) and Professor Mohan Munasinghe (Director, Munasinghe Institute for Development Studies). The award recipients are given a prize and trophy, with an award of ¥50 million. The award ceremony was scheduled for October 6, however, the 2021 event was cancelled due to the impact of the coronavirus.

In 1974, Ramanathan showed in his paper published in Science that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have about 5,000 to 10,000 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide, indicating that other gases may also be major contributors to global warming. In 1985, by studying short-lived climatic pollutants (SLCPs) that exhibit greenhouse effects alongside other climatic effects, including methane and tropospheric ozone, he helped the World Meteorological Organization organize and compile a report that led to the inclusion of carbon dioxide and other gases in the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, he became more interested in aerosol-derived brown clouds (ABCs), and in 1997–99, he participated as Chief Scientist in an experiment in the Indian Ocean (INDOEX). The observations continued thereafter, revealing that a 3-kilometer-thick brown cloud contains large amounts of nitrate, its particles, and black carbon. These studies have clarified the role of SLCPs in global warming.

Dr. Ramanathan showed that the reduction of SLCPs was effective for the control of global warming, and that doing so greatly reduces air pollution. These achievements have been linked to the passage of California’s climate change action bills and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. In recent years, he has engaged in activities involving influential people from around the world, aiming to build a consensus among the general public on actions to curb climate change. As the 3 billion poorest individuals of the world will be most affected by climate change, he emphasizes the importance of global warming measures.

Dr. Munasinghe earned his degrees in solid-state physics and developmental economics, and in the 1980s promoted research on the optimal management of the environment, energy, and natural resources. As the World Bank’s Environmental Policy Chief (1990–95), he helped develop the World Bank’s Environmental Assessment Guidelines to lead environmental economics, climate change, and ozone layer control measures. At the United Nations Rio Earth Summit in 1992, he presented a practical strategy for sustainable development, which is the basis of cross-discipline sustainability, in a fair and harmonious manner from three perspectives: economy, environment, and society. He also demonstrated the importance of addressing climate change in national development strategies.

In 2000, he established the Munasinghe Development Institute, further promoting economic, environmental, and social research, and announced the basic concept of “balanced inclusive green growth” (BIGG), based on sustainomics. He stated that by carrying out sustainable development that is aligned with their own development stages, developed countries could curb the use of natural resources in the future, and developing countries could grow and reduce poverty.

In 2010, the United Nations proposed the concept of Millennium Consumption Goals (MCGs), which was incorporated into Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns) and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. He also played an active role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and contributed significantly to preparing scientific information to finalize global agreement, including the COP3 Kyoto Protocol of 1997. He has advanced research projects in many fields, pioneered interdisciplinary approaches, and practically implemented his research results.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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