OSTP Director Holdren on Climate Change Research

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Publication date: 
10 February 2015

At last week’s briefing on the FY 2016 budget request for federal R&D agencies, OSTP Director John Holdren discussed challenges and opportunities in science and technology.  “One set of those challenges and opportunities sitting squarely at the intersection of science and technology and public policy of course revolves around climate change” he said.

Holdren spoke of how clean energy and energy efficiency can “cost effectively reduce the carbon emissions that are driving these climate related impacts.  We know that the sensible application of technology and information has immense potential for increasing preparedness and resilience against the changes in climate that materialize in spite of our best efforts at mitigation.”   Among the changes that he cited were heavier downpours and increased flooding, more severe droughts and heat waves, risks to nation’s physical infrastructure, plant pests, rising sea levels and ocean acidification.  The Administration has a number of initiatives to address these challenges; see pages 5-8 of a document distributed at the briefing: "Middle Class Economics: Building a Clean Energy Economy, Improving Energy Security, and Taking Action on Climate Change.”   

Holden’s remarks came less than two weeks after the Senate debated the Keystone Pipeline, during which they voted on this amendment offered by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI):

It is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.”

The amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 98-1.  The no vote was cast by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS); Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was not present as he was recovering from an accident.

Of note, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), a prominent critic of climate change research, said before the vote: “Climate is changing.  Climate has always changed, and it always will. There is archaeological evidence of that, there is biblical evidence, and there is historical evidence. It will always change. The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant, who think that they are so powerful that they can change the climate.  Man can’t change the climate. I ask my colleagues to vote for the Whitehouse-Inhofe amendment.”

It was perhaps this 98-1 vote that OSTP Director Holdren was referring to when asked at last week’s budget briefing what strategy could be used to convince Congress to vote for the Administration’s climate change proposals.  Said Holdren:

“First of all I would argue that climate change really ought to be a bipartisan proposition.  Addressing climate change would be good for the economy, good for the environment, good for national security, good for public health.  None of those have historically been partisan propositions.  I actually think we have a good case to make with the Congress on why people of both parties should support the initiatives that we are trying to advance.

“A further argument I would make – if you notice the recent polls, including polls of what Members of Congress believe according to how they vote, that a considerably larger number believe that climate is changing then believe that humans are necessarily causing it.  From that standpoint, if you only believe the climate is changing without reference to what is causing it, you should be in favor of increased earth observation so that we can better understand and provide information to the communities, to the businesses, and individuals who need to take steps to become better prepared for and more resilient against the climate change that just about everybody agrees is going on.  So again, you do not have to believe that humans are causing it, although I believe the evidence for that is overwhelming, to go along with the recommended increases in earth observation investments.”


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