Obama's Climate Czar

President-elect Barack Obama may create a new cabinet position centering on environmental issues. This “climate czar” would be responsible for spearheading Obama’s forthcoming agenda with respect to global climate change. Such an appointment could send a strong message across the country and abroad, of the President-elect’s commitment to the environment, a topic that many believe has been highly neglected throughout the presidency of George W. Bush.

The exact definition of this potentially key position has not yet been established, but in broader terms, the individual would serve as a special adviser to the president. Rather than heading up any newly created government body, the climate czar would most likely facilitate initiatives between already established entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Interior Department. In effect, this person would become the chief governmental strategist for reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases in the US.

“For the first time, candidates and voters are really connecting the dots between energy, the environment and the economy,” said Cathy Duvall, Sierra Club’s political director, in a press briefing. Throughout his campaign, Obama has maintained that clean energy policies would be an integral part of his overall economic recovery plan.

Talk of the new position has brought much speculation as to who would best fill the proposed slot. Several names have been circulating within news organizations and among political pundits . The three most likely candidates for the job are:

-New Mexico governor and former energy secretary, Bill Richardson. As a presidential candidate, he put forth an energy plan that would cut greenhouse-gas emissions 90 percent by 2050 and reduce US oil consumption by 50 percent by 2020.

-Former vice president and nobel prize winner, Al Gore. Gore’s advocacy efforts have earned him worldwide notoriety on the environmental front. Though he has not shown any interest in returning to a government position, the czar role could give him the opportunity to make an impact that he would not otherwise be able to achieve as a private citizen.

- Former head of the California EPA, Terry Tamminen. During his tenure as an advisor to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Tamminen was one of the lead architects of the state’s 2006 carbon cap-and-trade plan. He is also author of ‘Lives Per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction.’

Most agree that Obama’s selection is not as important as the creation of the position itself. The new cabinet post would, most notably, hold a symbolic weight never before seen in the area of environmental policy.