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Chu, Browner, Holdren, Lubchenco: the Climate Superfriends
Alex Steffen, 26 Dec 08

We need strong U.S. leadership on climate change, especially as we head into next year's COP-15 talks. President-elect Obama has already spoken more boldly (by far) on climate change than almost any other American elected official:

There is often, however, a large gap between words and deeds in Washington, D.C., and some of Obama's initial cabinet selections have been discouraging, to say the least, so I was extremely glad to see the President-elect's climate team come together.

Simply put, these guys are like the Justice League of American climate policy, scientific superheroes who will be (we hope) leading a transformed scientific and policy debate in a nation that's spent eight years being lead by an overtly corrupt administration and its Lysenkoist hacks. These people have been nominated for extremely important jobs, and they are up to the task.

Steven Chu -- a Nobel prize-winning physicist, who is a leading voice on climate change and renewable energy -- as Secretary of Energy:

At Berkeley, colleagues say, Chu has aggressively promoted research on advanced biofuels, solar power, and energy efficiency. He has successfully, and often shrewdly, fought for funding from the federal government as well as from private industry, most notably in his wooing, last year, of a $500 million partnership with oil giant BP for alternative energy research. As Chu sees it, a handful of hard-won breakthroughs—with photovoltaic cells for solar power, for instance—could be game-changers for the country's energy portfolio.

I've met and spoken with Steve Chu, and he is not only brilliant, he gets it: he understands the magnitude of the problem, the urgency of finding solutions, and the complexities that make progress difficult. But don't take my word for it; here's what he has to say for himself:

Carol Browner -- a well-respected former EPA administrator known for political savvy, who's been vocal on "the costs of inaction on climate change"-- to be Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. Here's her recent testimony on Capitol Hill:

Harvard's John Holdren -- a leading scientist who has been a strong voice on climate change, renewable energy and emerging sciences -- as the President's Science Advisor.

Most of the people I respect think Holdren is an outstanding selection, a brilliant man who gets science politics. Climate Progress' Joseph Romm bluntly says Holdren has "more combined expertise on both climate science and clean energy technology than any other person who could plausibly have been named science adviser." But don't take Romm's word for it, listen to Holdren describe the political realities of global climate agreements in his own words:

In applying the costlier solutions, the industrialized nations must lead – going first, paying more of the up-front costs, offering assistance to developing countries. This is a matter of historical responsibility, capacity, equity, and international law (the UNFCCC). ... The best basis for such an agreement in the short term is probably reductions in emission intensity (GHG/GDP); in the longer run, the only politically acceptable basis will be equal per-capita emissions rights.

Or check out this article. (And, of course, as we've noted before, John Holdren is an outspoken opponent of geoengineering.)

Jane Lubchenco -- a leader on climate change and a strong advocate for marine reserves -- to head NOAA:

Lubchenco has actively encouraged fellow scientists to better communicate their research to the public and has urged controls on greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. She helped lead a panel created by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to develop an Oregon strategy on climate change.

...A former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Ecological Society of America, Lubchenco has won many of the top awards in her field, including a so-called genius MacArthur Fellowship.

Lubchenco is a strong proponent of scientific clarity in politics; in her own words (from this excellent video on scientists as public citizens):

If decisions are to be informed by science, decision-makers should have access to information that they can understand, use and believe is credible. As all of you know, and especially in areas like the environmental sciences, the science is in fact very complex, nuanced, and difficult to communicate simply. The uncertainties are real. We don’t know everything. On the other hand, scientists often focus on those areas of uncertainty because that’s what we get excited about, those are the research frontiers, and we forget to communicate to the public at large or the policymakers, all the areas where there actually is a lot of agreement. We oftentimes lose perspective when we’re communicating and we need to regain that perspective.

Vested interests, then, often spin, cherry-pick and distort information. The result is what we have seen play out over the last decade in many different arenas. Decisions are made without good science, or science is seen as a weapon, not as useful knowledge. Now, this doesn’t serve anyone well. Changing this requires a number of things. One, clarifying the role of science - scientists don’t think they should be dictating - they should be informing, they should be helpful. Training and empowering scientists to communicate more effectively is a critical element of changing this situation. Organizing our data and information to make them more accessible and useable to others, having more scientific assessments like IPCC, like the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (the MA was a one-off - it needs to be done on a routine basis like the IPCC) and increasing openness in the conduct of science and opportunities for citizens to participate.

I'll write again about what's wrong with the Obama team and approach as it's being laid out, but for now, let me just end this piece by saying that this team is good news. Now, we're not out of the woods yet. You can't even see the edge of the woods from here. But I am heartened by a core U.S. climate team that is lead by four brilliant, hard-fighting, deeply committed scientific leaders.

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I must say I'm very excited about the energy/environment team that Obama is putting together. I am not very familiar with most of these individuals and am reading about them for the first time these past few days in the news, but I'm liking what I'm seeing. Let's hope they're as good in the White House as they appear to be on paper. If they are, I think we can really get some major thing accomplished in this country.


Posted by: Tim on 27 Dec 08

QUESTION: Can we share an understanding of the attacks on Earth and climate scientists like Dr. John Holdren by saying loudly and clearly that their assailants' activities are venal efforts to spread garbage and junk science, based upon nothing more or less than the duplicitous promulgation of ideological idiocy?

ANSWER: The many arrogant and hostile efforts toward Earth and climate scientists are for the sole purpose of shoring-up and building trust in a con game; to support the most colossal pyramid scheme in human history.....a modern version of the ancient Tower of Babel called the Global Political Economy. Only this modern Economic Colossus is not made of stone, but rather built out as a "house of cards". All of it is a patently unsustainable, gigantic ruse perpetrated by a tiny, greedy minority of outrageous consumers, reckless consolidators and relentless hoarders of wealth and power.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population
established 2001

Posted by: Steven Earl Salmony on 28 Dec 08

I can't believe that I found this from alltop's good news. This is not good news. The government is not qualified to make decisions for us even if it is claimed to be for the good of the globe.

Posted by: Rick Fisk on 28 Dec 08

Browner's selection is a serious fax pas for Mr. Obama.

From Carol Browner's Wikipedia page:

"During Browner's tenure, there were many reports from African American employees of racism directed at them from a network of "good old boys" who dominated the agency's middle management layers.[16] The most known of these involved policy specialist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, who in 1997 filed suit against the agency; in 2000 the EPA was found guilty of discrimination against her and she was awarded $300,000.[16][17] Coleman-Adebayo said that Browner allowed the problems to persist rather than trying to clean them up: "She wasn't at all sympathetic to complaints about civil rights abuses. We were treated like Negroes, to use a polite term. We were put in our place."[16] In an October 2000 Congressional hearing on the matter,[18] Browner appeared near tears as she said minorities had tripled in the agency's senior ranks during her time as administrator, but she was unable to explain why the culprits in Coleman-Adebayo's case had not been dismissed and in some cases had been promoted.[16] A month earlier, Browner had asked for the Office of the Inspector General to linvestigate a statement by an African American environmental specialist that she had been ordered to clean a toilet in 1993 in advance of Browner's arrival at an EPA event.[19] This followed a rally in which dozens of EPA employees protested what they saw as rampant bias at the agency.[19] Congressional dissatisfaction with the EPA situation and its treatment of Coleman-Adebayo led to passage of the No-FEAR Act in 2002, which discourages federal managers and supervisors from engaging in unlawful discrimination and retaliation.[17]"

Posted by: coupeditor on 29 Dec 08

Secretary Chu is certifiably insane. There is no other explanation for his public statement of February 5, 2009.

Posted by: Steven Peters on 5 Feb 09

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