14 Jun 2008

G8 Science and Technology Ministerial Meeting Satellite Workshop on Energy and Environment Issues in Okinawa

As part of satellite activities for the first Group of Eight (G8) Ministerial-Level Meeting on Science and Technology, scheduled for June 15, 2008, in Okinawa, a workshop on environment and energy issues was held on June 14, 2008 at the University of the Ryukyus. In the workshop, which was co-sponsored by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), the University of the Ryukyus, Academia Sinica, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and supported by Okinawa Prefecture, four guest speakers each delivered a lecture and participated in a Q&A session including OIST President, Dr. Sydney Brenner. The following is a list of the four speakers with summaries of their talks and the Q&A session.

Dr. Akito Arima

Chairman, Japan Science Foundation
Co-chair, OIST Board of Governors

Lecture title: “Indispensable Usage of Nuclear Power and Pursuit of New Energy Sources Even with the Payment of Taxes”
New energy sources are required to increase the efficiency and to decrease the environmental impact of power generation. Integrated coal gasification combined cycle and carbon dioxide capture and storage will be important. Solar energy and wind power can contribute, but their variable availability requires the development of cheaper and more efficient storage batteries. New, clean energy sources are ideal, but their total contribution remains limited. At least until 2050, when new energy sources are expected to become more economical and stable, use of nuclear energy and further research on nuclear fusion to generate power is indispensible. While the outcome of an IAEA survey suggests increasing public acceptance of the use of nuclear power generation, the safety and supply of nuclear fuel and the management of nuclear waste remains a key issue. For developed countries, we must promote the 3R project which stands for “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle,” while pursuing the development of new energy sources, even with the payment of taxes on energy use.

Dr. Steven Chu

Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
1997 Nobel Prize in Physics
OIST Board Member
Lecture title: “The World's Energy Problem and What We Can Do About It”
Among the world’s most serious concerns are national security, which is tied to energy security and economic prosperity, and the social and potentially dire risks of climate change. At the core of these problems is the need for sustainable creation and consumption of energy. Government policies are needed to accelerate the deployment of energy efficiencies and conservation and to stimulate the innovation of new energy technologies. This includes the use of carbon-neutral energy sources, construction of buildings that are five to ten times more energy-efficient, storage of CO2 emissions in deep environmentally stable reservoirs, use of wind turbines, manufacturing of improved batteries, and development of low maintenance non-food plants for biofuel, such as Miscanthus, to replace current biofuel crops that compete for land and raw materials for food production. We also need transformative new scientific discoveries that can alter the entire landscape of energy demand and supply. One example is synthetic biology technology, which has been used to develop yeast that can produce a gasoline-like fuel. Another example is research to make artificial membrane systems that can undergo economically efficient photosynthesis.

Dr. Hiroaki Kitano

Director, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc.
OIST Special Advisor
Lecture title: “Biological Approach for Global Energy and Climate Change Problems”
Global energy and climate are the most important problems facing mankind today. Multiple approaches are essential in solving these problems. There is no magic solution, but biological approaches are a critical component. These include the development and use of biofuels that do not compete with food crops and the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. A key element, but often neglected, is the marine sphere that includes coral reefs and other aquatic life forms, which represents a new horizon of science. Healthcare issues may emerge associated with climate change that may require innovative and open approach for its solution. OIST can be a player in this effort by striving for a carbon neutral campus, pursuing leading edge research on renewable energy, coral reef preservation and regeneration, systems biomedicine, and working toward creating a carbon neutral island in Okinawa.

Dr. Yuan Tseh Lee

President Emeritus, Academia Sinica
1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
OIST Board Member
Lecture title: “Awakening and Collaboration of Asian-Pacific Countries”
Although we have witnessed the process of the globalization of human society during the last few decades, the process is only half complete; nation-state based competition is as fierce as ever, we are still far away from forming “one global community,” and because of this we are suffering the consequences. Environmental problems such as the depletion of the ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons and global warming trends caused by greenhouse gases are problems that must be addressed on a global scale. Okinawa is centrally located in the Asian-Pacific Region. It is an excellent place to demonstrate how an isolated island can acquire clean energy, and a goal for OIST could be to become an international center for the investigation of Asian-Pacific energy and environmental issues. In order for science and technology to solve the problems man faces in the 21st century, it is not enough to advance science and technology at a faster pace. Unless we pay special attention to the roles played by science and technology in this “finite” and “half-globalized” world, and learn to work together beyond the national boundaries and pay more attention to our “global competitiveness” for solving problems related to rather than continue to worry about “national competitiveness” for their own countries, the problems will not be solved.

Panel Discussion

The lectures were followed by a panel discussion with questions from the audience. Asked what government policies could be implemented realistically and quickly to help address various energy and environment issues discussed today, Dr. Chu proposed establishing economic fees for carbon dioxide emissions. Citing the example of stabilized energy use per capita in California since 1974 mentioned in Dr. Chu’s presentation, Dr. Brenner stressed the importance of these energy-saving efforts, adding that raising public awareness of the matter is important. He also suggested a scaled cost structure for energy use with higher levels of use triggering higher rates. Another question was addressed to Dr. Kitano, who discussed deforestation in Borneo, where local people have cut down trees to raise oil palm to produce bio-fuel. Referring to local poverty, as well as the lack of or lenient government regulations as reasons behind the situation in Borneo and other places, Dr. Kitano emphasized the need for developed nations to transfer and share new technologies to countries in need of such technologies so that they can prosper economically in harmony with nature. In response to a question about the risks and public perception of nuclear power generation, Dr. Arima pointed out that if the first use of nuclear technology had been for power generation instead of as a weapon, the public would have a much different attitude, and for illustration of this public opinion recently has become more favorable to nuclear power since the safety of current reactors has been demonstrated, such as in the recent earthquake in Japan. All of the panelists agreed on the need of a global effort to combat global warming and solve energy issues, and the importance of new science and technology discoveries to help achieve the goal.

 

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Dr. Brenner delivers opening remarks

 

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Students listen attentively to lectures

 

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Panelists

 

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A participant raises a question during a Q&A session