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Barack Obama Responds to Sciency Policy Questions!

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Not surprising, given his record of supporting science and technology as cornerstones of American prosperity. He recognizes the importance of science as a critical facet of the 21st century. Also unsurprisingly, John McCain hasn’t responded to the same questions, which were offered by Scientists & Engineers for America and 18 other science organizations. McCain’s record of not supporting policies based on science is well established and is one of the primary reasons I do not support his candidacy for President. Further, McCain’s choice for Vice-President is incredibly disturbing as she has publicly called for creationism to be taught in schools and denies that climate change is influenced at all by human activities.

I’m going to summarize a few things from some of Obama’s answers, things that I find most important or impressive. You can look at every question and answer at SEA’s website.

On climate:

There can no longer be any doubt that human activities are influencing the global climate and we must react quickly and effectively. [...] reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 [...] Specifically, I will implement a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. I will start reducing emissions immediately by establishing strong annual reduction targets with an intermediate goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Obama clearly recognizes the threat presented by catastrophic climate change and is ready and willing to listen to valid scientific advice on how best to change our behavior to address the challenge. The 80% below 1990 levels is a significant marker. The much-balleyhooed Warner-Lieberman bill that failed to clear the Senate this summer would have used 2005 as the benchmark year. Obviously, emissions grew considerably from 1990 to 2005, so I’m very pleased to see Obama use the more aggressive threshold.

I will also create a Technology Transfer Program dedicated to exporting climate-friendly technologies, including green buildings, clean coal and advanced automobiles, to developing countries to help them combat climate change.

I like the TTP Obama has proposed. I wish clean coal would be removed from Democratic lexicon. It allows coal corporations to claim they’re pushing for “clean coal” when they aren’t and won’t. This is one policy point on which I disagree with Obama.

On energy:

First, I have proposed programs that, taken together, will increase federal investment in the clean energy research, development, and deployment to $150 billion over ten years. [...] I will also work closely with utilities to introduce a digital smart grid that can optimize the overall efficiency of the nation’s electric utility system, by managing demand and making effective use of renewable energy and energy storage. [...] Second, it is essential that we create a strong, predictable market for energy innovations with concrete goals that speed introduction of innovative products and provide a strong incentive for private R&D investment in energy technologies.

These are good plans. They’re not excellent, but they’re much better than what we currently have under the Bushies. That being said, I wish Obama would shoot for excellent. Anything they propose will be viciously attacked by the right-wing anyway. Shoot high with the knowledge that you’ll likely fall short of your goals. But moving our energy policies forward will ensure we are in better shape to deal with future 21st century challenges and hiccups. Obama’s campaign discusses energy storage and transmission, boosting efficiency (very low hanging fruit), and extending the Production Tax Credit. I don’t see anything about allowing citizens to provide power to the grid at the same rates utility companies do. I would really like to see that policy proposed and let the energy corporations argue their power is better somehow.

On space:

As president, I will establish a robust and balanced civilian space program. Under my administration, NASA not only will inspire the world with both human and robotic space exploration, but also will again lead in confronting the challenges we face here on Earth, including global climate change, energy independence, and aeronautics research.

This is a good, general approach. OBama goes on to advocate for the re-establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, which would report directly to him. Such an entity would coordinate efforts between all the government’s space-related programs. Some additional details in the space discussion would be nice.

Last, but certainly not least, the important issue of scientific integrity:

I will restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best- available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on the ideological predispositions of agency officials or political appointees. More broadly, I am committed to creating a transparent and connected democracy, using cutting-edge technologies to provide a new level of transparency, accountability, and participation for America’s citizens. He also plans to:

  • Appoint individuals with strong science and technology backgrounds and unquestioned reputations for integrity and objectivity to the growing number of senior management positions where decisions must incorporate science and technology advice. These positions will be filled promptly with ethical, highly qualified individuals on a non-partisan basis;
  • Establish the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will lead an interagency effort on best-in-class technologies, sharing of best practices, and safeguarding of our networks

There are other topics on the website. Do go look through them. I am pleased Barack Obama has responded to the questions. I await the McCain responses.

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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One thought on “Barack Obama Responds to Sciency Policy Questions!

  1. Pingback: UCAR Issues 2008 Weather and Climate Transition Document « Weatherdem’s Weblog

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