Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obama's revolution on climate change.

Barack Obama appears to be perfectly serious about tackling climate change and has appointed one of the world's leading climate change experts as his administration's chief scientist.

The president-elect's decision to make Harvard physicist John Holdren director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy reveals a new determination to draw a line under eight years of US policy that have seen George Bush steadfastly reject overwhelming evidence of climate change.

News of the appointment was hailed by scientists around the world, including former UK chief government scientific adviser Sir David King. "This is a superb appointment," he told the Observer. "Holdren is a top-rate scientist and his position on climate change is as clear as you could get. This is a signal from Barack Obama that he means business when it comes to dealing with global warming."

Obama also used his weekend radio address to announce that respected climatologist Jane Lubchenco is to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The appointments follow Obama's selection of Steven Chu, a Nobel prizewinner, to the Department of Energy, where he has been directed to lead the development of alternative energy sources.

"Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation," Obama announced. "It's time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and ... worked to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology."

Obama is breaking away from the last eight years of "do nothing" politics, breaking away from Bush's habit of appointing people to top positions who come from the very industry's whose actions have been harming the environment and is appointing the kind of people who most understand what needs to be done, even if we don't like what it is that they tell us.

In one telling remark, he added that respect for the scientific process was not "just about providing investment and resources. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted nor obscured by politics nor ideology."

For far too long both politics and ideology have been used by the Bush administration to obscure scientific facts.

We have witnessed eight long years of the Bush administration who have resisted international emission-reduction accords and the introduction of US laws to protect threatened species. Indeed, many of the laws Bush is rushing through before he leaves office are all an orgy of violence on the environment.

It is as if he has to show us how much contempt he has for those of us who value the planet's survival before profit.

The attitude at the top simply couldn't be more different than it is now with the appointment of Holdren.

Holdren, whose expertise runs from nuclear-weapons proliferation to global warming, recently warned in a speech at Harvard that he considered "global warming" to be a misnomer. "It implies something gradual, something uniform, something quite possibly benign, and what we're experiencing is none of those. There is already widespread harm ... occurring from climate change. This is not just a problem for our children and our grandchildren."

This change in attitude at the highest level of the US government when it comes to the issue of climate change is long overdue.

With these appointments Obama has hit the ball clean out of the park.

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