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Thursday, 15 January 2009

Obama Expectations Riding High

First published on January 9 as a guest blog on Chemical Week.

When Barack Obama is inaugurated on January 20 he will have the expectations of the world on his shoulders.  The global economic depression, the war in Iraq, the developing world, Obama is being held out as some sort of Messiah who can singlehandedly fix the world's problems.  Nowhere more than in climate and environmental policy is his appointment heralded.  Expectations are riding high that the team he puts in place will make change and drag the U.S.'s global reputation up by the bootstraps.  

Obama is appointing heavyweights to his team from Carol M. Browner, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency throughout the two Clinton administrations who is to serve as President Obama's 'Climate Czar', to Steven Chu, the Physics Professor and Nobel Prize winner as Energy Secretary. Chu particularly is an outspoken long-term environmental advocate, especially on climate and alternative fuels.  Two other top scientists, Harvard Professor of Environmental Policy John Holdren and marine biologist Jane Lubchenco were appointed in December. 

But as the economic situation worsens, it is clear that Obama will have inherited a mess.  In the current political climate, will he be able to make climate and energy a real priority, even if it hurts the economy in the short-term?  And just when you thought you had the American political landscape sorted, President Bush goes and designates three 'marine monuments' in the Pacific Ocean, preserving over 190,000 square miles of ocean.