Stein alerts me to Obama answering the science debate questions, and provides some of his own commentary. T’ Intersection reports, but wimps out of any analysis. The answers are here. So, looking only at those bits that interest me:
1. Innovation… What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?
Obama’s answer to this (see below) is reasonable: increase spending on research etc. But this sits very oddly with his restatement of the problem:
…the U.S. annually imports $53 billion more in advanced technology products than we export. China is now the world’s number one high technology exporter. This competitive situation may only worsen over time because the number of U.S. students pursuing technical careers is declining. The U.S. ranks 17th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; we were in third place thirty years ago.
China is (if it really is; I’m somewhat unconvinced) the worlds #1 because of cheap labour re-selling other peoples ideas; not because they spend lots on research. Ergo, Obama’s proposed solutions won’t address his version of the problem. What worries me is that neither he nor his PR folk have noticed that. Are they incapable of coherent thought? Its not promising.
My administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade….
2. Climate Change. There can no longer be any doubt that human activities are influencing the global climate and we must react quickly and effectively. First, the U.S. must get off the sidelines and take long-overdue action here at home to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions. We must also take a leadership role in designing technologies that allow us to enjoy a growing, prosperous economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. OK, I think thats pretty good. No quibbling: climate change is happening and its our fault and we should do something and not wait for others. Excellent. I’m pretty sure that whatever he tried to do would get mired in the political system, so it probably doesn’t matter too much exactly what he wants to do. 80% below 1990 by 2050 is probably overkill, he’s been talking to Hansen too much, but its the right direction. He wants to do it by cap-and-trade rather than carbon tax, which I weakly feel is the wrong way to go, but I don’t have strong opinions on that aspect yet.
I will start reducing emissions immediately by establishing strong annual reduction targets with an intermediate goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 OK, annual targets is nice, but it also needs a mechanism – just a target by itself is meaningless.
5. National Security. Again stresses research, which is nice. Would have been bold to have stated an aim to reduce the overall security budget, but thats probably asking too much.
11. Space I will establish a robust and balanced civilian space program… which is perhaps conceeding that the present programme is fragile and unbalanced; a good start. But he ducks the can-we-afford-it part of the question.
13. Research Again, good on research spending, but no hint of what needs to be cut to pay for it, or where the money is coming from.