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John Holdren’s Big Science, One Science Directive (so what has this smartest-guy-in-the-room said in the past?)

“Some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the century.”

-  John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “What We Must Do, and the Cost of Failure,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, Global Ecology (1971), p. 279.

“As University of California physicist John Holdren has said, it is possible that carbon-dioxide climate-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020.”

-  Paul Ehrlich, The Machinery of Nature (1986), p. 274

“We have been warned by our more cautious colleagues that those who discuss threats of sociological and ecological disaster run the risk of being ‘discredited’ if those threats fail to materialize on schedule.”

- John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology (1971), p. 6.

“John Holdren (like Paul Ehrlich) has done much to discredit himself by both his failed forecasts and his angry response to his critics…. [But] will Dr. Holdren embrace a challenge culture and make midcourse corrections? Will he temper his temper toward those of us who really care about better, longer living for a growing population, as well as political and economic freedom?”

- Robert Bradley, “John Holdren in Retrospect (Part VIII on Obama’s New Science Advisor)” (February 2, 2009)

John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has flexed his muscles with a recent directive (see below) to federal employees. Science in the service of public policy is objective, and current science is settled science, even in a wide-open area like climate change.

Neo-Mathusians rejoice–the ten commandments have come from on high!

Well, if Dr. Holdren is making sound science the law for the  Washington, D.C., bureaucracy, can he kindly revisit his past predictions and let us know which ones he would not subject to the God of peer review or present before esteemed professional societies?

“Only one rational path is open to us—simultaneous de-development of the [overdeveloped countries] and semi-development of the underdeveloped countries (UDC’s), in order to approach a decent and ecologically sustainable standard of living for all in between. By de-development we mean lower per-capita energy consumption, fewer gadgets, and the abolition of planned obsolescence.”

- John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “Introduction,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology, 1971, p. 3.

“A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States. . . . Resources and energy must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries. This effort must be largely political.”

- John Holdren, Anne Ehrlich, and Paul Ehrlich, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (San Francisco; W.H. Freeman and Company, 1973), p. 279.

“[Our] gloomy prognosis [requires] organized evasive action: population control, limitation of material consumption, redistribution of wealth, transitions to technologies that are environmentally and socially less disruptive than today’s, and movement toward some kind of world government.”

- Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and John Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1977), p. 5.

“Today the frontiers are gone, and the evidence is mounting that technology cannot hold the law of diminishing returns at bay much longer. Resources being stressed today are often being stressed globally; they will not be replenished from outside the ‘system’.”

-  John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, ‘Resource Realities,’ in Holdren and Ehrlich (eds.), Global Ecology, p. 8.

“As University of California physicist John Holdren has said, it is possible that carbon-dioxide climate-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020.”

-  Paul Ehrlich, The Machinery of Nature (1986), p. 274

“We are not, of course, optimistic about our chances of success. Some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the century. (The inability to forecast exactly which one – whether plague, famine, the poisoning of the oceans, drastic climatic change, or some disaster entirely unforeseen – is hardly grounds for complacency.)”

-  John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “What We Must Do, and the Cost of Failure,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, Global Ecology (1971), p. 279.

For more Holdren analysis, see these posts:

John Holdren on Global Cooling (Part I in a Series on Obama’s new science advisor, ‘Dr. Doom’) (December 30, 2008)

John Holdren on Global Warming (Part II in a series on Obama’s new science advisor) (December 31, 2010)

John Holdren on Mineral/Energy Depletion (Part III in a series on Obama’s new science advisor) (January 2, 2009)

John Holdren and Anti-Growth Malthusianism (Part IV in a series on Obama’s new science advisor) (January 5, 2009)

John Holdren on Renewable Energy Problems (Part V in a series on Obama’s New Science Advisor) (January 10, 2009)

John Holdren Describes Energy as “Indispensable,” “Reliable,” “Affordable” (Part VI in a series on Obama’s new science advisor) (January 14, 2009)

John Holdren and “The Argument from Authority” (Part VII in a Series on Obama’s New Science Advisor) (January 22, 2009)

John Holdren in Retrospect (Part VIII on Obama’s New Science Advisor) (February 2, 2009)

Also see:

John Holdren Told ‘Not to Make News’ at Confirmation Hearing (February 12, 2010)

Hallowe’en Hangover: Ehrlich, Holdren, Hansen Unretracted (November 1, 2010)

Scientific Integrity: Fueling Innovation, Building Public Trust

Posted by John P. Holdren on December 17, 2010 at 02:17 PM EST

On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity emphasizing the importance of science in guiding Administration decisions and the importance of ensuring that the public trusts the science behind those decisions.  In it he highlighted six principles of scientific integrity that would be at the core of this Administration’s approach to policy making. And he asked me, in collaboration with other Federal officials, to craft recommendations for ensuring scientific integrity throughout the executive branch.

Today, in response to the President’s request, I am issuing a Memorandum to the Heads of Departments and Agencies that provides further guidance to Executive Branch leaders as they implement Administration policies on scientific integrity. The new memorandum describes the minimum standards expected as departments and agencies craft scientific integrity rules appropriate for their particular missions and cultures, including a clear prohibition on political interference in scientific processes and expanded assurances of transparency. It requires that department and agency heads report to me on their progress toward completing those rules within 120 days.

It’s important to recognize that, although this Memorandum is new, scientific integrity has been a White House priority since Day One of this Administration. That fact is exemplified by the dozens of extraordinarily high-caliber and internationally renowned scientists that the President has brought into his Administration, including three Nobel prize winners in science in full-time positions (Steven Chu, Harold Varmus, and Carl Wieman) and two more as members of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (Mario Molina and Ahmed Zewail); by the policies the Administration has adopted, including the President’s Executive Order removing barriers to responsible research involving stem cells; by the budgets it has proposed, as reflected by the largest investment in science and innovation in our Nation’s history; and by the processes it has followed to apply science to some of our most challenging problems, including evidence-based decision-making in energy, agriculture, climate, resource management, and national security.

Science and technology have extraordinary potential to help America achieve a broad range of national goals, including sparking economic growth and job creation; allowing Americans to live longer, healthier lives; developing clean sources of energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil; and protecting our environment. As the President said at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences last year, “Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before.”

I am confident that today’s Memorandum will help ensure that science and technology continue to be brought to bear by this Administration with the greatest effectiveness and integrity in the service of all of the national goals the President has so clearly articulated.

John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

6 comments

1 Ed Reid { 12.30.10 at 11:22 am }

Hopefully, we can avoid being crushed by the avalanche of FOIA request responses from the federal climate science community. (Paging Dr. Hansen.)

2 Holdren Forecast That He Would Be Discredited | Real Science { 12.30.10 at 2:18 pm }
3 rbradley { 12.30.10 at 11:40 pm }

John Tierney of the New York Times looks at John Holdren (and Paul Ehrlich) versus the late Julian Simon in his recent article, Economic Optimism? Yes, I’ll Take That Bet

4 Steve C. { 12.31.10 at 10:32 am }

We already know the way to measure sophistry like this. Evaluate the deeds and not the words!

When you have to explicitly state that one of your policies is fealty to what most citizens would consider to be a blinding flash of the obvious, you are already have a problem.

How busy would a car dealership be if its advertising slogan was, “We Sell Cars That Are Functional!”

Part of the Democratic party’s attack on the Bush administration was that science had been subordinated to ideology. Now we live in a new era. The citizens must be assured that this critique of government is, in the words of the late Ron Ziegeler, “no longer operative”.

Governing is choosing (George Will) and the sad reality of governing is that sometimes you have to choose the least worst of all the options.

5 Mark Krebs { 01.03.11 at 3:29 pm }

I see the “Holdren memorandum” as authorization for DOE and its labs to increase its control over organizations such as ASHRAE.

It interesting how differently mainstream media saw it.
For example:
http://article.wn.com/view/2010/12/18/White_House_issues_plan_to_protect_science_from_government_a/

The Wichita Eagle2010-12-18
WASHINGTON – The White House on Friday released its long-delayed scientific integrity guidelines, intended to ban political interference in science. President Barack Obama campaigned on scientific integrity after scientists and others complained that Bush administration officials distorted scientific work and limited access to information on a variety of issues ranging from climate change to lead poisoning and mountaintop removal mining. Shortly after Obama took office, he issued a memorandum in March 2009…

6 Maude Vang { 01.12.11 at 7:13 pm }

We already know the way to measure sophistry like this. Evaluate the deeds and not the words! When you have to explicitly state that one of your policies is fealty to what most citizens would consider to be a blinding flash of the obvious, you are already have a problem. How busy would a car dealership be if its advertising slogan was, “We Sell Cars That Are Functional!” Part of the Democratic party’s attack on the Bush administration was that science had been subordinated to ideology. Now we live in a new era. The citizens must be assured that this critique of government is, in the words of the late Ron Ziegeler, “no longer operative”. Governing is choosing (George Will) and the sad reality of governing is that sometimes you have to choose the least worst of all the options.

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