1224 GMT December 09, 2022
The transition to a new civilization will be the challenge of our generation. Based on the accumulation of scientific knowledge over the past quarter century, an agreement was made at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris for all countries to initiate actions toward zero emissions societies.
To gain further knowledge about the present environmental challenges faced by the world, such as GHG emissions and global warming, as well as solutions to them, Iran Daily held an exclusive interview with the Secretary General of International Research Network for Low Carbon Society (LCS-RNet), Dr. Shuzo Nishioka, from Japan, who visited Iran during October 15-16, 2016 to take part in conferences at the Iranian Department of Environment and Sharif University of Technology.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
IRAN DAILY: Would you please provide us with some information about your scientific background and positions?
SHUZO NISHIOKA: I have a Doctor of Engineering — mechanical engineering — and my specialty is in the field of system analysis and global environmental policy. I have been working since 1988, at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — a scientific and intergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations, set up at the request of member governments, dedicated to the task of providing the world with an objective and scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts.
Recently, I have become the chairman of a committee for developing the long-term scenario of reducing greenhouse gases, supported and supervised by the Central Environment Council of Japan’s Ministry of Environment.
Why are you here in Iran?
The Japanese government would like to broaden the scope of its environmental efforts and activities and extend them to other countries, particularly those of the Middle East. Iran is an important country in the region and plays a very pivotal role in its political as well as environmental matters. I am here to invite related Iranian officials and organizations to join us in our efforts and cooperate with us, as well as other countries, in achieving our long-term environmental goals.
On Sunday, you participated in an environmental conference at Sharif University of Technology. How was it?
We had a very fruitful discussion in that conference. A large number of professors had gathered to discuss environmental issues. They showed great interest in our goal of, and background in, tackling climate matters. We addressed and studied the problems from an engineering point of view and discussed ways to strengthen the connection between science and policy.
What are the main environmental challenges? What are the present risks to the environment? How should we address them?
Concerns over environmental issues heightened at the end of the 20th Century. In 1988, the IPCC was set up to discuss and address such issues and tackle them. Since then science has made substantial progress. In its latest report — Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) — the IPCC finally concluded that the temperature is rising and its consequent impacts are quite clearly visible in every part of the world. Some 25 years of scientific observation and analysis by the IPCC show that the average temperature of the earth has risen by 0.85°C, compared to the preindustrial era, which ended with the advent of the Industrial Revolution from 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. Although the change appears not to be significant, observing temperature variations over the past 1,000 years indicates that it is quite considerable and worrisome.
According to our estimation, we might expect a rise of between 4°-6°C in temperature by the end of the present century if we do not take any countermeasures.
The IPCC has also concluded that the rise in temperature is fully caused by anthropogenic GHG emissions and that the climate will not become stable unless we stop emitting these gases. Therefore, the only solution to avoid the adverse impacts of greenhouse gases would be not to emit them, at least within the next 50 years.
As long as we emit carbon dioxide, the temperature will continue to rise. Thus, sometime in the future we will have to stop that. The Paris Agreement has set up the target of limiting global warming to a maximum 2°C for the coming years. This means that the total amount of greenhouse gases we are permitted to emit would be very small.
A glance at the history of industrial and urban development, and the way they have taken place, suggests that human efforts to make technological advances have been steps towards the destruction of nature and the environment. If we do not modify our approaches, we can hardly predict a bright future for the earth and its environment. What is your take?
I think that we should be much more optimistic. Technology can help us achieve our goals. We have calculated it. If, by 2050, we manage to reduce energy consumption 40 percent and decrease the emission of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases by 40-70 percent [from 2010 levels] and, by 2100, bring them down to near zero, we will be able to stabilize the temperature rise to below 2°C.
How can Iranian metropolises control their air pollution?
By promoting the use of renewable energies as well as electric vehicles and insulating houses properly. Iran is required to produce its electricity by means of renewable power generation technologies, not fossil fuels. In addition, development and greater use of public transportation should be prioritized in Iran. Making effective long-term policies plays a very significant role in achieving the above-mentioned targets. Dialogue between politicians and scientists should also be enhanced in Iran.
Do you have any concluding remarks?
Given that Iran is a major player in the Middle East and the fact that the country’s political stability has improved over the past few years, it is required to use its potential to play a leading role in the region in tackling environmental challenges and encourage other countries to work towards becoming low carbon societies.