Gore says no to ‘Climate Czar’ role

The Washington Times reports today:

President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is flirting with creating a White House “Climate Czar,” but climate change crusader Al Gore says he doesn’t want the job….

I’m not actually certain that Gore is the Czarist guy to run a National Energy Council, which “would coordinate agencies, including the Energy and Interior departments and the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Gore is not the guy to coordinate and manage intergovernmentally, he is the guy to inspire and deliver messages and maybe pressure allies. I think he’d make a better international envoy for climate talks, although he’s apparently not even interested in that:

The obvious choice to lead the council is Mr. Gore, whose campaign to address climate change earned him the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. But the former vice president is taking a pass.

Former Vice President Gore does not intend to seek or accept any formal position in government,” Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider said. “He feels very strong right now that the best thing for him to do is to build support for the bold changes that we have to make to solve the climate crisis.”

Mr. Obama foreshadowed the new post on the campaign trail in April when he told a voter that Mr. Gore would be offered a special Cabinet post overseeing climate change.

“Al Gore will be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem,” Mr. Obama said.

With Mr. Gore out of the running for an administration job, leading candidates for the post likely include former EPA chief Carol M. Browner, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Other names mentioned for czar or membership in the energy council include World Resources Institute President Jonathan Lash, former Pennsylvania Environment Secretary Kathleen McGinty and California Air Resources Board chief Mary D. Nichols.

Some of those names would be good, others, I’m not so sure. The climate czar must understand both the climate issue and the energy and technology prophecy issue. And if they are running some sort of an analogue to the NSC or National Economic Council, where interagency battles are fought out, then it really should be somebody with senior executive branch experience.

That shortens the above list considerably to Browner, McGinty, and Nichols — and of whom would be quite good. But I can think of many others

The Obama transition team declined to comment on administration jobs or who would fill them, stressing instead the next president’s commitment to fulfilling campaign promises for clean energy.

“Obama has outlined an aggressive energy and climate agenda and will put the resources in place in his administration to achieve those goals,” Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Environmental advocacy groups are clamoring for the new White House post to raise the profile of energy and environmental policy.

“There’s clearly a pent-up demand for things that got blocked during the Bush years,” Sierra Club spokesman Josh Dorner said.

Mr. Obama, taking a page from Mr. Gore’s script, has argued that an energy policy strikes the confluence of economic, national security and environmental challenges facing the country.

“Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There’s no better driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy,” Mr. Obama told Time magazine shortly before the election. “That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.”

And that won’t be long now.

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5 Responses to Gore says no to ‘Climate Czar’ role

  1. william says:

    I wonder if the climate czar will be as effective fighting climate change as the drug czar’s war on drugs.

    [JR: Maybe, but he drug czar wasn’t running a NSC type organization. Frankly, I don’t know what they heck the drug Czar does. I know what the National Security advisor does.]

  2. Brad says:

    Why czar? Why is it always czar? It is so harsh and well…Russian. Not that there is anything wrong with Russian monarchy titles.

    Why not Climate Project Manager?
    Climate General?
    Green Energy Commissioner?
    Or simply Climate COO (or CEO)

    I suppose the Bush admin trick might be – Happy Skies & Puppies Climate Leader.

    As for suggestions, that is pretty far beyond my humble knowledge, but I think Bill Gates might be intriguing.
    Has no day job. Embraces tech. Has a history of (ruthlessly) getting #&@^ done. Has executive experience. Has PR experience. Has street cred and name recognition. Has a big philanthropic streak. Likes big ideas.

  3. MikeB says:

    Hey Joe, you seem to have a pretty good understanding of the climate issue, and have worked in government before. Have you considered taking a seat at the table yourself? :)

  4. Kait says:

    This is outrageous. I’ve read both An Inconvenient Truth and The Assault on Reason and Gore repeatedly argues that government intervention will be the main force that combats climate change. Now he is being offered the chance to shape government for the greener and is throwing it away.

    Get over the sour grapes, Al, your country needs you.

  5. Peter Wood says:

    The most important quality for a Climate Czar to have is the willingness to give “frank and fearless advice”. This means telling the President that the Obama Campaign’s target of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80% by 2050 is consistent with a stabilization target of 550 ppm or more; that it is only consistent with 550 ppm if it is part of a global agreement that is incredibly inequitable towards low per-capita emitters and low income countries; and that 550 ppm has serious risks of very high levels of warming.

    According to Stern (p 195), a 550 ppm stabilization target is 99% likely to lead to over 2 degrees C of warming, 69% likely to lead to over 3 degrees of warming, 53% likely to lead to over 4 degrees of warming, and 41% likely to lead to over 5 degrees of warming. This would have an unacceptably high likelihood of catastrophic impacts on civilization and the planet.