I realise that I have had several posts on signs of hope from the Obama administration, the last only four days ago, but I can’t forbear offering another one. I have just read the President’s address given to the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, and it confirms the enormous changes, indeed reversals, which seem to be under way in the US so far as climate change is concerned.
First, he announced major research investment and included energy in its goals:
I’m here today to set this goal: We will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.
He reaffirmed returning science to its rightful place:
Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over. Our progress as a nation – and our values as a nation – are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy…
And went on to announce his determination to engage the scientific community directly in the work of public policy, announcing the appointment of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, with which he plans to work closely, and which will be co-chaired by John Holdren his top science advisor. Environmental science will be part of its focus.
He stressed the intention of his administration to ramp up participation in international scientific and technological co-operation, including climate change and energy challenges. Clean energy is right at the top:
… in no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new technologies to produce, use, and save energy – which is why my administration has made an unprecedented commitment to developing a 21st century clean energy economy.
Our future on this planet depends upon our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution. And our future as a nation depends upon our willingness to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to lead the world in pursuit of new discovery…
The fact is, there will be no single Sputnik moment for this generation’s challenge to break our dependence on fossil fuels. In many ways, this makes the challenge even tougher to solve – and makes it all the more important to keep our eyes fixed on the work ahead.
That is why I have set as a goal for our nation that we will reduce our carbon pollution by more than 80 percent by 2050. And that is why I am pursuing, in concert with Congress, the policies that will help us meet this goal.
My recovery plan provides the incentives to double our nation’s capacity to generate renewable energy over the next few years – extending the production tax credit, providing loan guarantees, and offering grants to spur investment. For example, federally funded research and development has dropped the cost of solar panels by ten-fold over the last three decades. Our renewed efforts will ensure that solar and other clean energy technologies will be competitive.
My budget includes $150 billion over ten years to invest in sources of renewable energy as well as energy efficiency; it supports efforts at NASA, recommended as a priority by the National Research Council, to develop new space-based capabilities to help us better understand our changing climate…
He announced first time funding for an initiative recommended by the Academy,to be called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, to undertake high-risk, high-reward research, and concluded his remarks on energy by saying:
My administration will also pursue comprehensive legislation to place a market-based cap on carbon emissions. We will make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America. And I am confident that we will find a wellspring of creativity just waiting to be tapped by researchers in this room and entrepreneurs across our country.
The nation that leads the world in 21st century clean energy will be the nation that leads in the 21st century global economy. America can and must be that nation.
We have eschewed leadership in New Zealand but following may yet prove quite challenging.