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Who Is Steven Chu? A Nobel Physicist Who Believes In Bold Energy Transformation

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"Who Is Steven Chu? A Nobel Physicist Who Believes In Bold Energy Transformation"

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Numerous media outlets are reporting Dr. Steven Chu will be President-elect Obama’s choice to head the Department of Energy. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, is the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California where he has been addressing the climate crisis by pushing breakthrough research in energy efficiency, solar energy, and biofuels technology.

Colleagues who know Chu best say “he’s not a manager, he’s a leader.” In an interview with the Wonk Room, David Roland-Holst, an economist at the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at UC Berkeley, described Chu as a “very distinguished researcher” and “an extremely effective manager of cutting edge technology initiatives.”

This past summer, Dr. Chu spoke at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, convened by the Center for American Progress, UNLV, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). In one of the lighter moments during his remarks, Chu claimed that efficiency gains and lowered costs have been shown to be possible when the jobs were assigned to engineers, not lobbyists. Chu also laid out in stark terms the climate crisis that we now face:

Consider this. There’s about a 50 percent chance, the climate experts tell us, that in this century we will go up in temperature by three degrees Centigrade. Now, three degrees Centigrade doesn’t seem a lot to you, that’s 11° F. Chicago changes by 30° F in half a day. But 5° C means that … it’s the difference between where we are today and where we were in the last ice age. What did that mean? Canada, the United States down to Ohio and Pennsylvania, was covered in ice year round.

Five degrees Centigrade.

So think about what 5° C will mean going the other way. A very different world. So if you’d want that for your kids and grandkids, we can continue what we’re doing. Climate change of that scale will cause enormous resource wars, over water, arable land, and massive population displacements. We’re not talking about ten thousand people. We’re not talking about ten million people, we’re talking about hundreds of millions to billions of people being flooded out, permanently.

Joe Romm cautions that the 3°C figure is just a mid-range warming even if we’re able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Watch Chu’s remarks:


Update

Carol Browner will reportedly be Obama’s energy coordinator. The Wonk Room posted this video of Browner discussing what the government needs to do to transform to a low-carbon economy:


Update

,Lisa Jackson, who is currently Gov. Jon Corzine’s chief of staff in New Jersey, will reportedly be Obama’s choice to head the EPA. ThinkProgress spoke with Corzine this week about Jackson’s environmental credentials. Jackson has faced some criticism from PEER for “employing a highly politicized approach to decision-making that resulted in suppression of scientific information.” Corzine told us Jackson “is absolutely committed to the kind of clean-up that some her critics would say she should have done more of.” He added, “I think Lisa has done a remarkable job of trying to move the environmental agenda forward within a constrained world.” Watch it:


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