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Energy, science and environmental protection

Candidate Obama said dealing with energy and environmental policy would be a high priority for his administration. Suggestions from IU professors include: make a breakthrough with China and India on climate change; ensure that the U.S. takes the lead in addressing global greenhouse gas emissions; listen to scientists on the value of uncertainty and the need for more research; invest in energy infrastructure while prices are low; and stress the importance of efficiency.

Matthew R. Auer

Reach out to the Asian powers. Make a breakthrough with China and India on the problem of climate change. China and India have the power to neutralize -- or alternatively, reinforce -- anything good that comes from America's efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions.

David Gergen, the famous Washington insider, describes your calm demeanor, President Obama, as a kind of "Aloha Zen." That zenlike bearing -- karmic but unflinchingly goal-oriented -- will serve you well in your dealings with Asian counterparts.

On the climate change problem, coaxing cooperation from China and India will require persistence, but also, a diplomatic strategy unlike any previously tried. The old approach, heavy on demands and moral obligations, doesn't work particularly well. The new approach must offer nothing less than glory to China and India -- recognition not only for their sacrifices, but also their ingenuity, and pre-eminence. Yes, China and India will continue to demand financial assistance, transferrable technologies, and targets and timetables for emissions reduction that are less stringent than those binding most OECD countries. But bragging rights mean a lot to China and India, too.

Ironically, since it is not a contracting party to the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. is in a relatively strong position to negotiate with China and India. The U.S. can say, "The world perceives us to be laggards in dealing with global warming. Let's nullify that view, in a dramatic fashion." Chinese and Indian universities graduate hundreds of thousands of engineers each year. There are millions of well-equipped, would-be problem-solvers in these two countries. Already, China has emerged as the technological leader in solar energy research and development.

Your plans for overhauling energy policy are more ambitious than any of your predecessors. But you need strong partners overseas to ensure lasting benefits for the U.S. and the world. Enlisting China and India as lead partners is vital to that end.

Matthew R. Auer is a professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Dean of the Hutton Honors College, Indiana University. Top

A. James Barnes

The U.S. has a moral duty to lead. At the same time the world is confronting a serious decline in the global economy, as well as loss of confidence in the financial system, its emissions of greenhouse gases are on a trajectory to accelerate changes in our climate with potentially disastrous effects on human welfare, ecosystems and international security. The coincidence of these two global-scale problems, with their solutions seen by some as irreconcilably in conflict, represents both a challenge-- and an opportunity -- to you as president.

As the nation with the highest per capita carbon emissions, the United States has a moral duty to both set a good example --and provide enlightened leadership to foster concerted action among the community of nations -- to effectively stabilize the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to mitigate the impact of global climate change. Life on Earth as we know it cannot be sustained if the rest of the world even approaches our per capita emission levels. We need a technological revolution to avert the consequences of long-term global warming, and our leadership and resources are crucial to creating that revolution.

Your policies should provide incentives for, and facilitate the development and rapid utilization of, clean, renewable sources of energy and more energy-efficient technologies and practices. Concomitantly, existing subsidies should be removed from energy-inefficient inefficient technologies and practices. Moreover, the developing world should be included in demonstration projects. The emergence of cost-effective options will speed acceptance and utilization of such technologies -- and increase people's willingness to agree to the limits those technologies will make possible.

As the old Indian saying goes, the earth is not inherited from our fathers, but is borrowed from our children. You leadership is critical to putting us on a path to pass a viable earth on to all the children of the world. It's the "change we need."

James Barnes is a professor of public and environmental affairs, adjunct professor of law. He is former dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Top

Vicky Meretsky

Vicky Meretsky

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Vicky Meretsky

Help scientists educate about uncertainty. As we begin to pick up the reins of responsible stewardship of the environment, science will be important, and you've already made it clear that you value science for the information it can offer. But we need to learn to value science for what it can teach us about uncertainty, as well as for its ability to reduce uncertainty. If economists are wrong about the economy (it has been known to happen), the public is upset, but seems to understand that global economics is a complex picture that can surprise us. The same public, faced with surprises in its environment, often decides that science is useless, self-serving, or worse. Help scientists to educate the public about uncertainty, and help us to show the public (including Congress!) that science can provide strategies for weathering surprises: for reducing damage and hastening recovery. Just as we need Americans to help rebuild the nation in so many other ways, we need Americans to be informed participants in using and protecting our natural resources in the face of climate change, increased development pressures and other threats.

Vicky Meretsky is an associate professor and conservation biologist in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Top

J.C. Randolph

Support research; heed its results. My advice would be to actually listen to the scientific community on a wide variety of issues such as energy, environmental protection, and health care. We have endured eight years during which scientific information was not only ignored but often was manipulated or distorted for political purposes. You have selected some absolutely outstanding scientists in several cabinet and other high-level positions. Give them responsibility, give them authority and listen to them.

We know that our climate is changing and we know that humans are greatly influencing our global environment, but more research is needed for both mitigation of, and adaptation to, these impacts. We know that we need increased energy efficiency, alternative energy resources, and more energy conservation, but more research is needed for reducing environmental impacts from energy development, developing new and more efficient energy technologies and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We know that we need more accessible, more affordable, and more advanced health care, but more research is needed in medical sciences, developing medical technologies and treatments, and improving the economics and management of health care delivery.

Support this research and listen to the research results.

J.C. Randolph is director of the Center for Research in Energy and the Environment and a professor of environmental science at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Top

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Kenneth Richards

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Kenneth Richards

The time is right to invest in energy. In your campaign, energy and was a high-profile topic. Some have suggested that you may have to compromise your goals, however, because of the ailing economy. In fact, this may be the ideal time be aggressive on energy front, but proceed carefully.

First, the caution: you cannot spend yourself rich. In a sagging economy you might be tempted to fund public programs just to put people to work. But that only makes sense if the work they do is productive.

Second, the opportunity: a slow economy presents new opportunities. The resources we need for important public endeavors -- e.g., labor, materials, and equipment -- are now available at a much lower cost than in the recent past. We should take advantage of this opportunity to pursue long overdue improvements in our energy infrastructure, technology, and human capital. The electricity industry desperately needs to upgrade its transmission system to provide better access to wind power and more security in supply. We need to develop better technologies in the area of renewable energy. And, as the energy sector undergoes massive changes in the next couple decades, we will need a work force that is up to the challenge. Now is a good time to adopt programs to provide support for infrastructure upgrades, technology research, and support for education and training. But those programs must be carefully designed to ensure that the investments are well-spent in areas that will increase our productive capacity.

Ken Richards is a professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and an energy economist. Top

John A. Rupp

Efficiency is the key, in technology and lifestyle. As our nation's modern way of life and level of prosperity are based on affordable and reliable sources of energy, policy changes that address concerns about sustainable societal behavior, energy security and degradation of the environment must take these facts into account. Quick fixes to these three areas of concern won't work well.

Our primary policy tool to change the style and type of energy usage should be based on efficiency. Changes in efficiency ranging from individual lifestyle changes to highly engineered technical solutions need to be integrated into energy policies. These changes are necessary and achievable for our nation to meet the challenge of creating an accessible and sustainable supply of energy.

John Rupp is assistant director for Research and section head, Subsurface Geology at the Indiana Geological Survey. Top