Obama is declaring that he will fight climate change head-on. His declarations come amid what are now persistent TV images and scientific reports (including from the federal National Climate Data Center) about wildfires, droughts and downpours increasing dramatically in the United States over the past 30 years -- just as predicted in conjunction with global warming.
After meeting with former Vice President Al Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for helping alert the world to the climate crisis, Obama, with Gore sitting by his side, told the cameras this past week that, "This is a matter of urgency and national security. ... The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear."
The Bush White House has been seen as hostile to facing the problem. It was even reported by ABC News and The New York Times a few years ago to be allowing political assistants in their 20's to rewrite -- and considerably soften -- the conclusions of one of the world's preeminent climate researchers, James Hansen, NASA's earth sciences chief.
"We're about to see a 180 degree shift in the priority given to climate change," Republican William Reilly, EPA chief in the first Bush administration, told ABC News.
Obama's new so-called "green energy team" -- which he plans to introduce formally this week -- even includes scientists:
For Department of Energy chief, Obama is expected to pick a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Steven Chu worked on technological innovations to fight global warming. He wants a price on carbon emissions, notably from coal-burning plants. Fifty-one percent of American's electricity is generated by burning coal, with all consequent CO2 greenhouse emissions flowing directly into the atmosphere.
To head the Environmental Protection Agency, Obama is nominating Lisa Jackson, a chemical engineer. She spent 20 years winning environment regulations in state and federal government. She's known as a consensus builder.
And there will be a new post -- a climate and energy czar whose job will be to coordinate both items. Carol Browner, as EPA chief under President Clinton, won hard bureaucratic battles toughening air quality standards. She calls global warming, "the greatest challenge ever faced."
Another former EPA chief -- also a Republican -- told ABC News she admires Obama's new "green team" team for their expertise, passion and commitment, but warned it won't be easy in Congress.
"This is not just a Republican-Democrat issue," said the ex-EPA chief, Christie Todd Whitman, also a former governor of New Jersey. "This is a coal-state issue versus non-coal-state, and people's livelihoods are heavily invested in those states in coal."
The looming battle with fossil fuel companies, charge many critics, comes after eight years of coal lobby dominance in the Bush administration.
"One high administration official told me that she had been told to stay out of the way of coal," Republican Reilly told ABC News.
As for the worsening U.S. and global economic crisis, Obama has said he'll deal with the economy and global warming together -- in effect using programs for each to help solve the other.
"We have the opportunity now to create jobs all across this country," he told journalists in Chicago this week, "to re-power America, to redesign how we use energy."
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