Obama's rock star science team
Meet the star-studded science team recruited to lead major departments during Obama's presidency.
Not since George Washington could consult with Benjamin Franklin has a U.S. leader had such a star-studded science team as President-elect Barack Obama. Among the leading scientists Obama is presenting for senate confirmation are two Nobel Laureates, two former presidents of the AAAS – that's the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the director of a national science lab and the credentials go on.
To get a sense of who these top scientists are and how they might guide the next president, "Living on Earth" talks to Steven Schneider. He is a professor of Biology at Stanford University and co-director of the Center for Environmental Science and Policy.
Dr. John Holdren is Obama's pick for White House Science Advisor. He's a Harvard professor of environmental policy and director of the Woods Hole Research Center. And he chaired a group that won the Nobel Peace Prize for nuclear disarmament.
Professor Schneider: "Well John Holdren's in my top ten smartest people in the world. There's no topic in science except in the bio-med area that he doesn't have a broader view than most of the professionals practicing. So it's a perfect choice for a science advisor because they don't need somebody there who's producing the latest results in the melt rates of the ice in Greenland. They need somebody who sees how that fits into sea level rise and what that does to coastal wetlands. And he's going to get push back from people saying 'Oh, but John, you can't be sure.' And I know what he'll say. He says 'Well, are you sure your house is going to burn down? You have insurance. We're not sure who's going to attack us. We have a trillion dollar military.' And I think he's going to use exactly those kinds of arguments to try to have us hedge against potentially catastrophic outcomes in the environment. We have to recognize where are the risks and deal with 'em."
Steven Chu is Barack Obama's choice for Secretary of Energy. He is a director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and also a Nobel Laureate. In this case, he won the Nobel Prize in physics.
Professor Schneider: "We'll Steve Chu is another one of those brilliant intellectuals, and I was actually surprised five years ago when he left us here at Stanford and went over to the dark side to Berkeley. But he did it to run as the administrator for the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, which is arguably the Mecca of renewable energy, energy efficiency. So, Steve is not just talking the talk, but he's actually for the last five years walked the walk of being involved daily with people who actually look at renewable energy technology. He'll be a refreshing change in the Department of Energy, which in the past has often been run by managers. Here you're going to have a guy with some management experience, but who's an intellectual first. And I think that's critical also to be in the cabinet."
Jane Lubchenco, one of the nation's leading marine biologists and currently professor at Oregon State University, has been tapped to head NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Professor Schneider: "Jane Lubchenco is again a refreshing change, because NOAA has been headed primarily by administrative types. Now we're bringing in a world class scientist who also has the value system which says 'nature matters too.' It's not just about improving the economy. Remember, NOAA sits in the Department of Commerce. So, the people at the top always have the 'what's it gonna do for the economy?' point of view. Jane is gonna bring in 'but what is it doing to the environment at the same time?'"
Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth.