Is this change we can believe in? There's reason to think so.
President-elect Barack Obama has rounded out his cabinet recently with key scientific, energy, environmental and even jobs positions that consistently send one message: Science and above all, climate science will be respected.
Eight years ago at this time, President-elect George W. Bush was quietly backing away from a campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide, and filling federal environmental positions above all with people who would follow the dictates of politics, even if career scientists recommended otherwise. The litany of evidence from the gutting of the Clean Air and Endangered Species acts, to the crafting of an oil- and coal-centric energy policy is too long to list. And, anyway, there's a new president coming to town. (One quick note about that outgoing president or as Jon Stewart likes to call him, "Still-President Bush": Environmental groups are challenging some of the "midnight regulations" approved by Bush Administration agencies that would make mountaintop removal coal mining easier, among other things.)
Obama is assembling a team of superstars in their fields. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and a champion of alternative fuels among other renewable energy technologies, will lead the Energy Department. Another climate science heavyweight, John P. Holdren, will act as science adviser. Hilda L. Solis, a champion of green jobs, will lead the Labor Department. Carol M. Browner, the former Clinton EPA chief, will coordinate energy and climate policy at a high level. Jane Lubchenco, a scientist with expertise in ocean acidification and a passion for taking action on global warming, will lead the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Nancy Sutley, who as deputy mayor of Los Angeles has helped institute major energy-saving programs, will run the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Environmental groups were somewhat less enthusiastic or at least mixed in their reactions about the appointments of Ray LaHood, a Republican supporter of public transportation, who will lead the Transportation Department, Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary, Tom Vilsack to lead the Department of Agriculture, and Lisa P. Jackson to lead the EPA. Key questions there will be how Vilsack's support for corn ethanol butts heads with the goals of other cabinet members, how Salazar does or does not slow development of oil and oil shale on public lands in the West, how LaHood handles the transportation infrastructure aspects of Obama's "economic recovery" program, and whether Jackson is able to reinvigorate a demoralized EPA.
In all, the appointments offer great hope that Obama's campaign pledges to tackle global warming and energy policy with science-based solutions will be fulfilled.
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