Obama will address climate change

President elect Obama announced his choices for Secretary of Energy (Steven Chu), head of Environmental Protection Agency (Lisa Jackson), Council on Environmental Quality (Nancy Sutley), and energy (Carol Browner). I know more about Chu as he is local, famous in physics even before his Nobel Prize, and frequent speaker, eg, in Science in the Theater programs. Like just about everyone else, I am thrilled that someone who is dedicated to addressing climate change and very interested in getting the facts right will have an important position.

Chu heads Lawrence Berkeley Labs. It has an Environmental Energy Technologies Division:

Advanced Energy Technologies
Research on batteries, fuel cells, cleaner combustion, and physical and chemical applications.

Atmospheric Sciences
Links to research on climate, regional and urban air quality, and modeling studies.

Buildings Energy Efficiency
Find out more about EETD’s work on energy-efficient lighting, windows, roofs, software, and building systems.

Energy Analysis
EETD conducts research on both U.S. and international energy issues—policy, efficient purchasing, electricity markets, energy use of buildings, industry, and transportation.

Indoor & Outdoor Environmental Quality
Ventilation, indoor air quality, assessing pollutant exposures and risk, and reducing the chemical and biological attack threat to buildings.

The Energy Analysis program and others includes working with China and other governments.

The Helios Project is also there, working on new technology photovoltaics (solar cells) and cellulosic biofuels.

Now a blog at the American Association for the Advancement of Science site predicts that the highly respected John Holdren, recently president of AAAS, head of Woods Hole Research Center, will be named science adviser.

Search on this blog, to find more of what John Holdren says.

To get some idea what Holdren sees as important for scientists to focus on, go to his plenary address to the AAAS meeting in San Francisco in 2007.

It looks like President elect Obama is serious about addressing climate change.

2 Responses to “Obama will address climate change”

  1. Dear Karen, I confess to being very unimpressed by Obama’s selection of Ken Salazar to head the Department of the Interior, and Tom Vilsack to head the USDA. Salazar’s sorry record is summed up by the Center for Biological Diversity here. Vilsack has championed corn-derived ethanol and genetically engineered foods. as reported here.

    I personally don’t think it will be sufficient to try to control greenhouse gases while letting the industries that Salazar and Vilsack have been over-friendly with, have their way with the last refuges of the world’s natural ecosystems. Humanity cannot survive in a vacuum devoid of healthy ecosystems, but it doesn’t look like Obama understands that.

  2. Karen Street says:

    Hi Marshall,

    I know relatively little about Vilsack and Salazar, though I did notice that even some advocacy groups (obviously not the Center for Biological Diversity) were more balanced in their reaction.

    There are a few points where we disagree, and I would address one.

    First, thanks for raising the issue of biological diversity. This is, along with the Earth’s degraded ability to supply food and clean water and climate change, the real biggie. I was pleased to see Jane Lubchenco nominated to lead NOAA, because she is a strong advocate for caring for the ocean and atmosphere.

    I no longer understand the arguments against transgenic crops.

    Even limiting my reading to Science and Nature magazines, the general science peer review publications of the US and UK respectively, I was disappointed over the years to see every single attack on transgenic crops fail the test of time. When an article is published with peer review, it is put in front of the scientific community, to accept, reject, or refine. Reports on the problems of transgenic crops have not stood up well.

    Indeed, the largest problems with transgenic crops appear to be habitat destruction (clearing land for planting) and introduction of exotic species (planting).

    We face a world with increasing population, increasingly degraded land, and climate change. The environmental consequences of the current farming methods, in terms of pollution and reduced insects and increased salinity, are serious. No wonder that so many third world countries have embraced transgenic technology, to see if they can find a way to feed their people. For example, by 2020, rice productivity is expected to decline 10% (from increased night temperatures), putting many more in Asia at risk of starvation.

    Biodiversity is important. But please don’t reject without further study a technology that has so much importance.

    Eight years ago, I attended the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I was already seeing early reports of worries about transgenic crops not panning out. A journalist on a panel described how they originally got a lot of information from anti-transgenic “environmental groups”, but journalists were losing interest because these groups didn’t seem to respond to facts that were published. But for me, the most serious was what the researchers said: (even neglecting climate change,) there is no way to feed the population of 2020 without transgenic crops.

    I have seen environmental groups and individuals saying that we don’t need transgenic crops. I have not read this in peer reviewed literature. Indeed, one of the reasons regions further away from the equator are expected to show increased agriculture productivity, according to IPCC, is not only longer growing seasons and carbon fertilization, but the ability to respond rapidly to climate changes with transgenic crops. (Some are less sanguine on this point, because changes in precipitation may alter food and fiber production.)

    The problems we face are too serious. We must check whether we listen to those who have studied the issues.

    Marshall, this is an important area we disagree on. Perhaps you can address this: which sources do you trust and why?