Wish List for Obama: Environment Experts' Top Requests

Tasha Eichenseher in Washington, D.C.
National Geographic News
December 16, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama announced what some are calling his "green dream team" yesterday—a list of seasoned administrators and academics poised to take on a tower of growing environmental concerns.

The new guard: former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Carol Browner, who will head a special council on climate, environment, and energy; former New Jersey governor's chief of staff, Lisa Jackson, who will lead EPA; and Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics who was awarded the cabinet-level position of energy secretary. Chu has called coal one of his "worst nightmares."

As the group settles in, National Geographic News asked environmental leaders what is on their 2009 wish lists if they could set the new president's environment agenda.

Climate Legislation in the First 100 Days

Climate and energy top the list for Bill Chameides, dean of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Chameides would send a climate-legislation bill to Congress within the first 100 days of the administration.

And since he expects passage to be difficult as Congress hammers out the details, he would also require the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2)—a heat-trapping gas that accelerates global warming—as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

(Related: "The Case of the Missing Carbon" in National Geographic magazine [February 2004].)

It will be a win-win situation for everyone trapped in this tenuous economy, Chameides said.

"We can [combine] needs for economic stimulus with needs for renewable energy," he said. For example, industries could invest in mass transportation and a revamped electricity grid that can accommodate large amounts of solar and wind power.

Cap-and-Trade Legislation

"I would propose [Obama] moves forward with cap-and-trade legislation" for CO2 emissions in industry, said Jim DiPeso, policy director of Republicans for Environmental Protection.

Continued on Next Page >>


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