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Holdren: “The Administration remains committed to getting comprehensive energy and climate legislation through the Congress this year.

By Climate Guest Contributor  

"Holdren: “The Administration remains committed to getting comprehensive energy and climate legislation through the Congress this year."

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Obama’s science advisors says, “The evidence for the dominance of the human role in what we are experiencing is powerful and I think it should be persuasive to anybody not blinded by wishful thinking.”

President Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, said this yesterday that the “most important single thing that we need to get done in this country” to address energy and climate change issues is to pass legislation “that puts a significant price on greenhouse gas emissions.” Without that, he added, the U.S. will not be doing enough to reduce emissions “and we will not have the credibility we need ultimately to forge the sort of international agreement that is required.”  WWF’s Nick Sundt discusses Holdren’s remarks in this repost.

Holdren made the statement during remarks at the National Climate Adaptation Summit organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  Holdren is the Director of OSTP, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

Hours later, President Obama said in a press conference that the Gulf oil disaster “should serve as a wake-up call that it’s time to move forward on this legislation. It’s time to accelerate the competition with countries like China, who have already realized the future lies in renewable energy. And it’s time to seize that future ourselves. So I call on Democrats and Republicans in Congress, working with my administration, to answer this challenge once and for all.” See our posting, President Obama says Gulf Disaster “Should Serve as a Wake-up Call that it’s Time to Move Forward” on Energy and Climate Bill.

President Obama and his science adviser, John Holdren.   Source: White House photo.

President Obama and his science adviser, John Holdren.  Source: White House photo.

Holdren began his remarks yesterday by reminding the audience of the “core conclusions of climate change science”:

1. “Global climate is changing. On average it is warming at a rate that is highly unusual against the background of natural variation that has always characterized the earth’s climate.  It’s warming, on the average, but with that warming come changes in all of the elements of climate and the phenomena related to it.  That means rain and snow, atmospheric circulation, ocean currents, storms, all changing in their spacial patterns, in their magnitudes and very importantly changing in their timing.”

2. ”The main cause of these changes in climate is human activity, above all the combustion of fossil fuels and secondarily tropical deforestation and other land use change. The evidence for the dominance of the human role in what we are experiencing is powerful and I think it should be persuasive to anybody not blinded by wishful thinking who looks at that evidence carefully.”

3. ”[T]hese changes in climate are already harming human well-being.  This is not just a problem for our children and grandchildren.  It’s a problem for us now.  We’re seeing more and bigger floods in regions prone to flooding, we’re seeing more and bigger droughts in regions prone to those, we’re seeing worse wildfires, more powerful storms, worse outbreaks of forest pests like the pine bark beetle and the spruce budworm, more coral bleaching events, increased coastal erosion, damage to structures and roads from thawing permafrost in the far north and a lot more.”

4. ”[T]he harm is likely to grow to far larger levels if we fail to take aggressive action in this country and in concert with other nations on both mitigation and adaptation.”

Holdren continued:

“Those conclusions from climate change science are robust. Nothing in the emails hacked from East Anglia University servers, nothing in the lapses in the IPCC’s review process – which by the way have been few in number and minor in importance – nothing in any of that comes close to calling into question the core findings which I have just tersely summarized.

I can assure you that that is President Obama’s view.  It is my view.  It is Secretary Chu’s view,  Secretary Salazar’s view,  NOAA Administrator Lubchenco’s view,  EPA Administrator Jackson’s view, CEQ Chair Sutley’s view, Energy and Climate Coordinator Browner’s view. It is the Administration’s view.  And accordingly, the Administration remains committed to getting comprehensive energy and climate legislation through the Congress this year.”

Holdren emphasized that we must both curb emissions (a.k.a. mitigation) and prepare for the impacts (a.k.a. adaptation), with equal emphasis on each:

“Mitigation alone won’t work because the climate is already changing. We’re already experiencing impacts from that. Nothing we can do in the mitigation domain can stop it overnight. And so a mitigation-only strategy would be insanity.

Adaptation alone won’t work. Adaptation alone won’t work because adaptation gets more difficult, more expensive, and less effective the larger are the changes in climate to which we are trying to adapt. If you live on an island that is one meter above sea level and the sea level goes up two meters, adaptation is no longer the question. You are dealing with evacuation.

Clearly what we need is enough mitigation to limit changes in climate to a level with which adaptation can largely cope.”

When asked by Rick Piltz of Climate Science Watch when the President will address the American people in a speech focused specifically on climate change, Holdren answered:

“I certainly expect that there will be at some point going forward – I can’t tell you exactly when it will be – but there certainly will be a major speech by the President that puts this all together in a forceful way. Because the fact is, it’s true: it’s not enough that I’m out there saying it, that Steve Chu’s out there saying it, that Jane Lubchenco’s out there saying it. It is far, far more powerful when the president says it.  And he will do that”¦The President understands with crystal clarity what a big deal this is”¦.He believes in it.  He understands it.  And we’re going to get it done.”

– Nick Sundt

This repost is from the WWF Climate Blog.

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16 Responses to Holdren: “The Administration remains committed to getting comprehensive energy and climate legislation through the Congress this year.

  1. Wit's End says:

    Outstanding!!!

  2. Encouraging to read this report, thanks.

    Sometimes Washington gets trapped by its phrase: – “Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good” … In a stable climate, with an open and plentiful future, that is great rule.

    As to Holdren’s words: – “The evidence for the dominance of the human role in what we are experiencing is powerful and I think it should be persuasive to anybody not blinded by wishful thinking.” – such careful wording is meant to preceed political discourse. And it is good, not perfect.

    And shouting “fire!” and organizing the bucket brigade is another way to react… With perhaps less than two generations of relatively stable climate ahead, a stronger reaction would be even more good.

    I would like to see something between these two extremes… Obama seems thrust into the role of crisis leader.

  3. Lauren says:

    I agree; this is encouraging. I would love to see the President give a speech which pretty much this exact text.

  4. Sasparilla says:

    Great article, Holdren is awesome. Now lets see the President sincerely push this legislation through.

  5. SecularAnimist says:

    Obama has repeatedly asserted that the USA will be burning lots of fossil fuels for decades to come. Prior to the BP disaster he announced a huge expansion of off-shore oil drilling, he supports the Kerry/Lieberman bill with its plan to “ensure a future for coal”, and has proposed squandering tens of billions of dollars on the “clean coal” hoax and the toxic, dangerous, costly and ineffectual nuclear power boondoggle.

    NONE of this is compatible with taking the action that scientists tell us is urgently needed if we are to have any chance of avoiding the worst outcomes of anthropogenic global warming.

    Acknowledging the scientific reality of anthropogenic global warming and climate change while continuing to deny the scientific reality of the urgent need to phase out ALL fossil fuel use within years, not decades, is still denial.

  6. Rick Covert says:

    Is this gulf oil volcano our ecological disaster Pearl Harbor then? If so why wasn’t the 1979 IXTOC-1 well blow out our wake up call. We certainly had more motivation back then with gas lines from April through June of 1979. We also had Three Mile Island. So much time squandered and so much time lost.

  7. fj2 says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/28/opinion/28baker.html

    “The Earth’s Secrets, Hidden in the Skies”, Daniel N. Baker, NY Times, 5/28/2010

    “. . . it collects mounds of environmental data which, in the hands of climate scientists, could add greatly to our understanding of global warming.”

    This is something the President could easily facilitate.

  8. Michael Tucker says:

    I would love to hear President Obama’s excuses to all of those folks mentioned by Holdren as to why it is taking so long to come up with “a speech focused specifically on climate change.” I would love to know his reasoning.

    Yes, we will suffer some of the consequences of inaction. That is why Holdren is speaking about adaptation. I don’t think the current disaster can be linked to evidence of climate change. To be sure, our need for oil led to deepwater drilling but it isn’t like the climate has attacked us (yes, continued used of oil will advance global warming). The problem with waiting for the climate equivalent of Pearl Harbor is that, by the time we feel attacked, it will probably be too late to take preventative action.

  9. Leif says:

    The Arctic summer melt looks like it might be the Pearl Harbor event that we need to push the Nation over the Edge. Even if we do not break records, my guess, we will be a close second with the hand writing on the wall. We must make sure that the Media starts reporting in earnest however. There again I hope that the BP-MESS will awake at least a few journalists to do their job.

    It is defiantly nice to see a dramatic shift in poll numbers, sad that the Gulf had to be sacrificed to achieve them.

  10. Gary says:

    Huh! a few days ago I commented that I thought John Holdren was being
    held somewhere in a White House closet….well welcome John Holdren to
    the light of day…what a coincidence! Now! stay in front Barack..don’t
    let him out of your sight and tell him what needs to be done. Paul
    Ehrlich said of you that you are this country’s best ecologist.

  11. Leif says:

    Interesting point. IMO

    At the beginning of May the Arctic ice area was within the combined area of Washington and Oregon of the 40 year average. One month later we have almost added the area of Mexico to the difference and we have the hot months to go yet. Usually the melt rate stays somewhat parallel year to year. This pattern shows much more instability than the past.

  12. That is good news. Noticed President Obama brought up international competition, that is one way to motivate people. Depending on other countries for energy already causes problems and investments in renewables will mitigate future problems. It’s sad that we have to talk mitigation so much now, but it helps skeptics understand that this is a current problem and not a hypothetical issue in the future.

  13. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    It’s a delight to hear one of Holdren’s stature making this statement, particularly in his present role in the administration. While it is very measured in tone it is also reasonably broad in discussing the needs for both mitigation and adaption. In addition, while it doesn’t specifically explain the feedbacks, clear markers to two majors are laid down, presumably leaving Arctic ice loss for Obama to wield if he chooses:

    “. . . we’re seeing worse wildfires, more powerful storms, worse outbreaks of forest pests like the pine bark beetle and the spruce budworm, more coral bleaching events, increased coastal erosion, damage to structures and roads from thawing permafrost in the far north and a lot more.”

    This seems very heartening in that it goes much further than immediate domestic politics might demand – it acknowledges to the international community that Obama is awake to and concerned by the feedbacks’ accelerating capacities as being by far the most dangerous aspect of global warming.

    Assuming that Holdren’s statement will have been very carefully vetted, it may well be a signal that the administration is at last willing to formally admit the scale of the problem, which is a long-awaited step toward a willingness to negotiate its resolution.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  14. Windsong says:

    I read in an old book years ago, that if the west Antarctic Ice sheet melts, there will be a lowering of sea level at the point of impact and it will push tsunami-like waves toward the Northern hemisphere.

    Basically, althought our government is talking a little about climate change, it seems to me that they are still soft peddaling it. It can and will be truly catastrophic in the near future unless we make substantial cuts in CO2 emissions– say 80% by 2020?!

  15. Is this the same John Holdren who, along with his friend Paul Ehrlich, predicted imminent mass starvation back in the late 1960’s? How did their prediction of 65 million Americans dead of starvation in the 1980’s work out? How about his encouragement of forced sterilization and other government-enforced population controls? Why should he be given credibility with such absurd views? Sorry folks, but the Malthusians have been wrong for more than 200 years, and I see no reason to start believing them now. Onward and upward! Limits to growth are for losers!

  16. Meyer Lemons says:

    Well, they had better hurry. 2020 is only ten years away and it looks grim by almost any measure (http://www.global-warming-forecasts.com/2020-climate-change-global-warming-2020.php ). So far we have a lot of talk and handwaving and little action.
    Meyer