Passion for Justice

Environmental Professor Helps Asia Become Energy Efficient

by Samantha Bronson

Stephanie Ohshita, an assistant professor in environmental science, became an energy efficiency expert in order to help save the earth's environment. She and others have advocated energy efficiency as one solution to climate change, yet the U.S. government has not been taking action. So Ohshita has found other allies.

The industrial efficiency consultant has gone to Asia, specifically Japan and China, and found governments willing to enact standards and other policies on energy efficiency. Japan has put a few million dollars toward international energy cooperation and Ohshita is helping government officials there decide the best methods for implementation. Ohshita has also worked with China's government, which has policies in place for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"What I work on the most is looking at solutions to mitigate global warming," Ohshita said. "If you look at the main cause of climate change, it's energy use, whether in automobiles, coal burning, or even natural gas. We need to conserve energy -- do what we do but do it smarter."

To promote a melding of economic and environmental goals, Ohshita has co-authored a book, Cooperative Climate: Energy Efficiency Action in East Asia, due out this fall. The book is aimed at policy makers primarily in east Asia in the hopes that everything from new appliances to the production of chemicals can incorporate energy efficient practices. "You need a top-down push," Ohshita said, to get energy efficiency policies in place.

To make any real progress against global warming, Ohshita said, efficiency standards and big changes in transportation networks have to be enacted. Some scientists estimate that we must reduce emissions by 80 percent or run the risk of severely upsetting earth's atmospheric balance, resulting in catastrophic weather patterns.

"But there's a lot happening in a positive way," she affirmed. China and Japan already require that their domestic appliances be efficient and are looking at renewable energy sources. The U.S. government, she said, needs to act responsibly and take more action to reflect the country's share of the climate change problem. The U.S. emits about 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.