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The Holdren Pick:

One of the few Obama appointments that has me particularly concerned is his selection of John Holdren to be his top science advisor. It's all well and good that Obama has opted to name several well-respected scientists to his administration (such as Chu at Energy and Lubchenko at NOAA, among others), but in placing Holdren at the top, in what is effectively a cabinet-level position, I think that the Obama Administration does not understand, or is not concerned about the, the problem of science politicization. However bad the Bush Administration was in this regard, I have no confidence that Holdren will help the Obama Administration any better, for reasons I explain in this piece for NRO. Here's an excerpt:

Many who decried the alleged politicization of science celebrated Obama's election. The new president would both elevate and insulate the role of science in the policy-making process. Whereas the Bush administration allegedly silenced scientific perspectives they did not want to hear, a President Obama would ensure scientific analysis informs relevant policy decisions.

No doubt Obama had the "Bush is anti-science" meme in mind when he explained that his commitment to science means "ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology" and "listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient — especially when it's inconvenient." Yet the underlying causes of science politicization are far deeper than who sits in the Oval Office. Even so, President-Elect Obama's choice of John Holdren for his primary science adviser suggests political misuse and abuse of science will continue in the Obama administration, pledges to respect science notwithstanding.

Unlike some who have criticized the pick, my objection to Holdren is not that he is a climate alarmist -- I believe human contributions to climate change are real and worth addressing (though I also believe Holdren is prone to exaggeration). Nor do I think it a problem that Holdren has endorsed the imposition of significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, as this is the position President-elect Obama endorsed during the campaign. I would fully expect a President to name members of his administration who agree with the Administration's key policy positions on relevant issues. Rather my concern is that Holdren is one who will blur the boundaries between policy and science and squelch legitimate scientific and policy debate on important matters. I hope to be proven wrong, but we shall see.

For some of my prior posts on science politicization, see here and here.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Unpolitical Science:
  2. The Holdren Pick:
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Unpolitical Science:

The LA Times reports on an interview with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel-winning physicist, about the threat climate change poses to California.

Reporting from Washington -- California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Tuesday. . . .

"I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen," he said. "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California." And, he added, "I don't actually see how they can keep their cities going" either.

These are fairly apocalyptic predictions. The problem, as Roger Pielke Jr. notes at Prometheus, is that Chu's claims are not supported by available climate science. There are plenty of studies identifying potential negative impacts in California from climate change, such as this one linked by Sean Hecht at Environmental & Law, yet I am not aware of any that could support the claim that climate change threatens to end all agriculture in California.

For years we've heard complaints about how the Bush Administration waged a "war on science" by, among other things, distorting or misrepresenting scientific findings in order to support its policy positions. If the LA Times accurately reported on Chu's remarks, it seems like Obama Administration officials are already doing the same thing (and even before John Holdren is confirmed).

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Unpolitical Science:
  2. The Holdren Pick:
129 Comments