Address from the Editor-in-Chief
Significant Achievements of 2021 (30th) Blue Planet Prize laureates
The 30th Blue Planet Prize (2021) was awarded to Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan (USA) and Professor Mohan Munasinghe (Sri Lanka). Here's what I valued about their work.
Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the United States discovered that not only carbon dioxide but also other gases have a major impact on global warming. This shows that significant discoveries are made by researchers who constantly see things from a broad perspective.
By introducing the concept of Sustainomics, Professor Mohan Munasinghe, a researcher from a developing country, Sri Lanka, emphasizes that wealthy nations should be more aware that excessive consumption will lead to the destruction of the global environment.
After reading the great achievements of these two Blue Planet Prize laureates, I instantly felt that their choice of research themes was extremely well balanced.
The secret of Professor Ramanathan's success in his research could be that he investigated the impact of materials and their properties on climate over a long period of time. He discovered that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have a significant impact on global warming and that atmospheric black carbon has a huge effect on climate. Compared with the approach of developing completely new substances and study their impact on climate, clarifying properties and effects of existing substances from new viewpoints, as a matter of course, has larger impact on our society. Arguably, for many researchers, however, such an approach may look old-fashioned and is of little interest.
Professor Munasinghe's achievements seem to be the result of philosophical consideration. Development is essential for a better lifestyle. However, it is already generally agreed that unlimited development inevitably has a negative impact on the environment. We need to properly balance development and the environment, and find indicators to assess the balance. In my opinion, Professor Munasinghe established a basic philosophy to find the answers to these problems. Specifically, he introduced the concept of Sustainomics, which includes three key dimensions: economic, environmental, and social aspects to ensure well-balanced development. Professor Munasinghe showed that Sustainomics is useful in realizing green growth that is fair and beneficial to everyone.
In modern society, we tend to prioritize economic activities, such as technical development, with a focus on achieving short-term economic growth. However, this will lead to the destruction of the global environment, depriving future generations of its benefit. It is very important for us to formulate a principle for establishing a sustainable society for future generations. This is a difficult issue, but I believe that these two Blue Planet Prize laureates have given us guiding principles to solutions.
Former Vice-Rector, United Nations University
Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo