Asia told to focus on green growth

Nobel Prize winner urges Asian leaders to lead in sustainable development
Kash Cheong Straits Times 5 Jul 13;

ASIA should be less concerned with growing its economies and more focused on sustainable development, urged Taiwanese Nobel Prize winner Lee Yuan-tseh yesterday.

"People in Asia always say they want to catch up with the United States, but if the world consumes like Americans, we would need 5.4 Earths to sustain us," said the professor in his speech at the Singapore International Science Challenge (SISC).

While Asia has several encouraging projects like the Tianjin Eco-city and wind farms in China, a massive population is also migrating from rural areas to cities. "I'm afraid at this rate, green energy may not be able to overcome more consumption by more people," he said.

According to the United Nations, half of the world's people now live in cities. By 2050, that will increase to 70 per cent.

While many Asian governments, including Singapore's, are currently concerned about fertility rates, Prof Lee believes attention should also be paid to the planet's overpopulation.

"The UN recently predicted that the global population will reach nine billion by 2050, but do we have enough resources to support this?" he asked.

The 76-year-old chemist, who became Taiwan's first Nobel laureate in 1986, is also the president of the International Council for Science.

Together with other science institutes, the council is involved in the Future Earth Project, a decade-long research initiative that explores methods to cope with global environmental change.

Fossil fuels have generated much of the West's growth in the last century, but Asia needs to "blaze its own trail" in sustainable growth, said Prof Lee.

"The West views nature as separate from humans, to be studied, controlled and used. The East views nature and humans as one, whose relationship is defined by harmony," he said, calling on the younger generation to explore these roots.

Speaking to about 80 young scientists from various countries, he added: "Environmental problems have no respect for borders. Future scientists need to come together - global problems demand global solutions."

The five-day SISC, organised by National Junior College and which started on Monday, brings together 110 students and educators from 27 institutions around the world.