Harvard physicist John P. Holdren (left), a leading authority on global warming and a past president of the nation's largest organization of scientists, will be President-elect Barack Obama's science adviser, the Boston Globe has learned.
A representative from one of the institutions with which Holdren is affiliated told the Globe this afternoon that Obama is expected to announce the appointment Saturday during his weekly radio address.
Holdren, who was an adviser to the Obama campaign, is a professor of environmental policy and director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and also is director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, and a past-president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Holdren's work has focused on climate change, energy technology and policy, and nuclear proliferation.
"I think if he is appointed he will send a signal to the scientific community, which has been disenchanted in the current administration, that science is very important and will be listened to," said Sheila Jasanoff, a Kennedy School colleague of Holdren's who has written extensively about the role of scientific advice in a democracy.
"To say John is a workaholic doesn’t capture it," she added. "He’s not happy unless he’s doing the work of three people at once."
Earlier this afternoon, Science magazine had reported on its website that there were strong indications of Holdren's appointment. He was supposed to attend a staff meeting this morning at the Kennedy School but instead flew to a meeting in Chicago with the Obama transition team, Science reported.
In August, Holdren published an opinion piece in the Globe chastising skeptics of global warming. "The extent of unfounded skepticism about the disruption of global climate by human-produced greenhouse gases is not just regrettable, it is dangerous," he wrote. "It has delayed -- and continues to delay -- the development of the political consensus that will be needed if society is to embrace remedies commensurate with the challenge."
That political consensus will be at the heart of the mission of Obama's science advisor. The president-elect has clearly stated his intentions to take the issue head-on, saying he would vigorously move ahead with efforts to promote alternative energy sources such as wind and solar and reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming.
AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner called the apparent appointment "enlightened" in a statement. "John Holdren's expertise spans so many issues of great concern at this point in history -- climate change, energy and energy technology, nuclear proliferation," he said. "He is widely respected in the United States and around the world as a science leader."
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