John Holdren

Wed, 2010-12-22 08:00Chris Mooney
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A Critical Science Moment for the Obama Administration

For those concerned about ensuring the accurate use of science in U.S. politics and political decision-making—about stopping what everybody now calls the “war on science”—we now stand at a critical juncture. What happens next will be extremely important. That’s the topic of this post; but first, let’s review how we got here.

1. The Last Administration Misused and Abused Science To a Degree Unprecedented in Modern American Politics.

There are still a few contrarians who question this conclusion. But they’ve long since lost the argument.

A voluminous number of science abuse case studies from the Bush administration were investigated and documented by myself, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and many others across the journalistic and NGO communities. Importantly, we demonstrated that a) during the Bush years, scientific information itself was regularly distorted for political reasons (e.g., these were not just disputes over policy, but over matters of fact and what is true about the world); and b) this happened on some of the most high profile issues of the day, where the scientific facts or scientific consensus was clear and the administration undermined them anyway (like stem cells and global warming).

How did we demonstrate this?

Thu, 2009-06-18 17:34Jeremy Jacquot
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The Climate Change Hangover

Let’s assume that the Obama administration and Congress get their act together this year and make good on their pledge of enacting meaningful climate legislation by establishing the nation’s first cap-and-trade system.

Let’s further assume, for the sake of argument, that the administration, working with its international partners, succeeds in drafting a robust successor to the Kyoto Protocol at the climate talks in Copenhagen later this year.

If we accept that the U.S. climate bill, known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), will accomplish its goal of bringing down emission levels 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050—which is nothing to sneeze at when you consider that a substantial fraction of policymakers (including some Democrats) vehemently oppose the measure—then the question becomes: Will it be enough to prevent the worst of climate change?

Sun, 2009-01-18 12:46Sheril Kirshenbaum
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Reading The Climate Change Czars

Few challenges facing America – and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change…Many of you are working to confront this challenge….but too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office.”

So began Barack Obama in a video message addressed to the Bi-Partisan Governors Global Climate Summit just weeks after the election. However, while he supports an 80 percent reduction of emissions by 2050 through a cap and trade bill, Obama’s nominations leave us uncertain of how the new administration intends to take on global warming.  

The President-elect’s energy team marks a stark contrast from George W. Bush’s inertia on climate change. Consider Steven Chu, our next Secretary of Energy: As a leading voice in the science community on the dangers of excess CO2, he will be an advocate for the development of alternatives to limit fossil fuel consumption.

Likewise, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency Carol Browner will serve as Assistant to the president for energy and climate change. Her appointment makes additional strides toward an aggressive approach because she will coordinate agency climate change policies while balancing economic and national security considerations. Another strong pick is Lisa Jackson to head the EPA who is expected to play a critical role toward establishing cap-and-trade legislation. These nominations demonstrate that science will once again be taken seriously in government.

The science team looks equally promising. John Holdren as science advisor provides Obama with an international expert on climate and energy who has long advocated for firm government regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. Adding momentum, marine scientist Jane Lubchenco should guide the Commerce department’s focus on climate policy through her role as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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