“A New Respect for Science”

by Mike Gaworecki

December 24, 2008

The New York Times recently published an editorial, entitled "A New Respect for Science," lauding Pres-elect Obama’s choice of Jane Lubchenco and John Holdren for two sub-cabinet positions:

Like Mr. Obama’s earlier appointments — in particular Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, to run the Department of Energy — these choices [of Jane Lubchenco to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and John Holdren as his science advisor] affirm Mr. Obama’s commitment to aggressively address the challenges of energy independence and global warming.

I asked a couple of my colleagues if they agreed with the NYT’s assessment. Here’s what Kate Smolski, our legislative analyst on the global warming campaign team, had to say:

As the last line of the editorial says, knowing about the problem and solving it are two different things. I think these appointments show Obama’s continued commitment to dealing with global warming, which is great. But we have to keep encouraging him to move forward with policies based on the latest climate science: emissions must be cut to at least 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 (for developed nations) and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

And here’s John Hocevar, our Oceans Campaign Director, on the appointment of Lubchenco in particular:

It’s a fantastic adviser appointment and cause for celebration among oceans lovers.

This is a strong signal that Obama plans to stick to his commitment to ensuring that policy is guided by science, not politics or short-term commercial interests. Dr. Lubchenko is an exemplary scientist with strong conservation credentials and an ecosystem perspective.

She was one of the lead scientists on a climate initiative organized by [outgoing Greenpeace USA executive director] John Passacantando back when he was with Ozone Action, and she has continued to be a strong voice on climate issues ever since.

But NOAA’s primary role is to provide the science – it will be up to Obama and Congress to act accordingly.

Like Kate said, it will be up to us to keep encouraging Obama and the new Congress to establish effective, science-based measures for dealing with the environmental problems the Bush Administration has been ignoring or even denying for eight years now. Electing Obama was only half the battle. We’ve definitely got a lot of work to do in 2009 – but thankfully we now have concerned, compassionate allies at the federal level!

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