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How Aggressively Will the New Administration Address Global Warming?

Very, it would seem.

This isn’t exactly a surprise. Obama campaigned hard on the subject. But a couple of personnel moves in recent days suggest that, despite the cratering economy, the administration is also eager to tackle the energy/global warming issues.

The first move is the ouster of John Dingell as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, to be replaced by Henry Waxman.

Both men are Democrats, but Dingell is from the old school, and from Michigan, with a reputation for being auto-industry friendly; Waxman, from California, is an avowed environmentalist. (To be reductive: Dingell is gas-powered while Waxman is wind-powered.) Between this switch and the rejection (for now) of the Big Three’s plea for Congressional aid, the gas-burning car paradigm looks headed for a shift.

Also interesting is the expected appointment of Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget. As director of the Congressional Budget Office, Orszag has been, among other things, a blogger. Here are his posts on climate change; and here’s a presentation he recently made at Wellesley College on the subject. Here’s his summary of the basic science:

+ Virtually impossible to account for 20th-century changes in climate without attributing a significant but uncertain share to anthropogenic G.H.G. emissions.

+ Only about half of warming already set in motion has occurred to this point.

+ Much more warming than that is likely, however,

– Reducing emissions from current levels would still mean rising concentration.

It is statements like these that have gotten Orszag called an alarmist.

If this administration gets its hands dirty with energy and climate issues — and it looks as if it sure plans to — we are in for a very interesting four years, to say the least. If nothing else, it will be nice to hear some policy arguments that incorporate lots of economic and scientific material.