Monday, August 17, 2009

U.S. Point Man for Global Warming: there's a scientist in the White House

Pop quiz: Who is the current U.S. Secretary of the Department of Energy? Yeah, I couldn't remember either. Shame on the both of us.

It's Steven Chu. And what makes him so note-worthy is that besides being a Nobel Prize winner for physics, he is a true scientist in the political arena (as opposed to a politician in the science arena, whose eyes glaze over when you talk data) who understands that the most important issue facing the nation today is the establishment of a forward-thinking energy policy that recognizes the global warming threat but also recognizes how to effectively and realistically solve it.

There is an interesting profile in this week's TIME magazine on Secretary Chu. He just recently returned from a trip to China where he laid out the facts for the Chinese scientists at Tsinghua University, the "MIT of China." While the growth of China has placed it near the top of world CO2 emitters, there also seems to be a greater desire to deal with it than is found in the U.S.

"He acknowledged that the developed nations that made the mess can't tell the developing nations not to develop, but he also warned that China is on track to emit more carbon in the next three decades than the U.S. has emitted in its history; that business as usual would intensify floods, droughts and heat waves in both countries; that greenhouse gases respect no borders.

[Americans] ranked global warming last in a national survey of 20 top priorities; in a global poll, only 44% of them wanted action to be taken on the issue, vs. 94% of Chinese."

Secretary Chu seems to be the right man for the job but he is strapped with a formidable task: getting Americans to recognize the significance of climate change, what can and should be done about it; and realizing that it is a long-term strategy, perhaps a painful one in the short-term. But it must be dealt with and it will be science and technology that will ultimately provide the answers with the help of the political structure - not the other way around.

Read the
entire article in TIME.

1 comment:

Bhuvan Chand said...

It never ceases to amaze how the simple mention of global warming in a news story sets off a tsunami of rhetoric. It generally comes from a very vocal minority that would go to its grave swearing that the sum total of climate science is a liberal plot to enrich Al Gore. Alternately, we are told the Martian ice caps are melting, proof that solar radiation and sunspot cycles — and not greenhouse gases — are the cause of planetary warmups.