Science Debate 2008

I found something nifty. A group of citizens concerned about the state of science and technology in the US kicked off an effort which is now co-sponsored by 38,000 scientists, engineers, and scientific/ engineering/ mathematics organizations, to quiz the presidential candidates on their knowledge of and positions regarding important scientific issues of the day.

Science Debate 2008 has posed a series of questions to each candidate on subjects ranging from climate change to energy to education to stem cell research and ocean health.

No response is up yet from McCain, but you can see Obama’s answers to the top 14 questions here. Here’s a taste of his position on one of my topics of concern, climate change:

Specifically, I will implement a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. I will start reducing emissions immediately by establishing strong annual reduction targets with an intermediate goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A cap- and-trade program draws on the power of the marketplace to reduce emissions in a cost- effective and flexible way. I will require all pollution credits to be auctioned.

I am impressed with his specificity, here. A reduction of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 is what climate scientists say is needed to forestall the worst effects of climate change. I’ve seen arguments made for and against cap-and-trade, versus a carbon tax. I’m no economist, but from what I have read from the experts, cap-and-trade should work, as long as it’s well thought out, and I would support this. (More on this if y’all are interested; just let me know.)

His answers to several of the other questions are equally thoughtful and have real specifics.  I’ll be interested to see McCain’s responses.

This is just a quick post — if I get time, I will delve into some of his answers and discuss his positions further, but my first impression is, damn — it sure will be nice if we can get a smart person back in the White House again. Digits overlapped…

And kudos to the people who thought this up — we need to be asking our leaders these kinds of questions.

3 thoughts on “Science Debate 2008

  1. McCain’s response was given by his selection of a teach-Creationism, preach abstinence (expect for my daughter), drill-the-sh*t-out-of-Alaska running mate.

    Never judge by their speech; judge by their actions.

  2. After a cursory reading, the only statement I took exception to was that genetic engineering has benefited the American farmer. He’s confusing farmers and agrobusiness and big agriculture looks disastrous to me.

    Aside from that I found myself genuinely heartened. He’s done and said some things lately that have been quite depressing but the intelligence and, as noted, specificity of his statements made me feel like at least this time around we may not have a chimp in the oval office.

  3. Good point, Ken.

    Sean, I agree with your concern — Illinois is a big agricultural state, and some of agrobusiness’s pressures on Congress and the presidency are potential trouble. I have a lot of concerns about insufficient FDA and USDA oversight, subsidies, and corn-based ethanol, just to name a few items. I am not opposed to GM per se, but I believe it needs to be based on sound science, not the pressures applied by large agricultural corporations.

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