NEWS, VIEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: A president who believes in science

Obama science picks hailed as signal of policy shift

President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to name two of the nation’s most prominent scientists to crucial roles in his administration was being heralded in the scientific community as a signal that the new president is serious about taking on the challenges of climate change and creating a new energy policy for the nation.

Obama is expected today to name John P. Holdren, 64, a former professor of energy and natural resources at UC Berkeley who is now at Harvard, as his science adviser and executive director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

He also reportedly has settled on Jane Lubchenco, 61, a world-renowned marine biologist and expert on the ocean environment at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The influential agency measures the pace of global warming, tracks hurricanes, predicts the weather and monitors the health of the world’s seas.

Their impending selection, along with the naming last week of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu to head the Department of Energy, is seen as the surest sign yet that Obama will reverse Bush administration policies on energy and global warming. [continued…]

Obama’s strongest message on climate yet

John Holdren’s selection] is an even stronger signal than the terrific choice of Steven Chu for Energy Secretary that Obama is dead serious about the strongest possible action on global warming. After all, the science adviser works out of the White House and oversees science and technology funding, analysis, and messaging for all federal agencies. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — With all due respect to everyone who was offended by Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to serve God’s middleman on Inauguration Day, it’s important to highlight the difference between those choices that Obama makes that matter and those that don’t. I doubt that even among those who found the Warren pick offensive that many imagined that this ominously marked top of a slippery slope.

What Obama did was toss a symbolic bone to evangelicals who can now savor it and feel respected. It has no policy implications and it also pays the dividend of making it clear that Obama is not afraid of offending progressives (again).

Contrast this with his choice of John Holdren. Most Americans have never heard of him, but to put his voice in a pivotal position in policymaking is of vital importance for the future of the planet.

Note that Obama made the announcement through his YouTube address on the weekend that most Americans are out lost in shopping psychosis.

Perhaps this will be the signature of his presidency: that he makes his most important moves with the least amount of noise.

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