Brazil's Technological Leapfrogging

Thursday, Apr 25, 2019

On April 16th, the Brazil LAB welcomed José Goldemberg, renowned Professor Emeritus at USP and former Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Education, and Secretary of the Environment for the state of São Paulo. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Goldemberg and colleagues at Princeton, such as Robert Socolow, postulated that developing countries could "leapfrog the Kuznets Curve" or skip the peak in energy consumption that other countries displayed during their development.

Goldemberg turned out to be correct and, through various innovative policies, Brazil was able to leapfrog. Brazil's adoption of energy efficient appliances and production techniques as well as renewable sources of electricity and fuel have allowed it to maintain relatively flat CO2 for the past thirty years, even while its population has grown by 40 percent. Interestingly, Brazil has an impressively high proportion of energy, Goldemberg believes the importance of renewable energy to be "overrated," and believes that what really counts are changes in consumption such as improved energy efficiency. The event concluded with a discussion of the potential of Professor Goldemberg’s creative leapfrogging concept for present-day environmental predicaments. 

Professor Goldemberg was joined by discussant Eric Larson, Associated Faculty at the Princeton Environmental Institute and Senior Research Engineer at Princeton's Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. Professor Goldemberg concluded his visit with a tour to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). His tour was organized by Vinícius Duarte, a Brazilian postdoctoral researcher at the PPPL.

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