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John Holdren to advise Obama on science, reports say

President-elect Barack Obama is poised to name John Holdren, a well-respected Harvard physicist and outspoken critic of the Bush administration's science policy, as his pick for White House science advisor, according to online reports.

The anticipated appointment was first reported today by Science Insider, a news blog published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). According to the blog, Obama will name Holdren, who served as AAAS president in 2006, on Saturday.

Holdren advised Obama during the presidential campaign and is director of the program on science, technology, and public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

In a piece for the October issue of Scientific American, Holdren wrote that "the ongoing disruption of the earth’s climate by man-made greenhouse gases is already well beyond dangerous and is careening toward completely unmanageable."

"The Bush administration has wasted the last eight years," he wrote then. "It should have been taking decisive action but engaged instead in systematic understatement of the danger."

But he added that with a new president taking office, there was "reason to hope."

In a 2003 review for Scientific American of the book Power to the People: How the Coming Energy Revolution Will Transform an Industry, Change Our Lives, and Maybe Even Save the Planet, Holdren wrote that "current methods of mobilizing civilization’s energy are more disruptive of local, regional and global environmental conditions and processes than anything else that humans do." Holdren also criticized sci-fi author Michael Crichton for dismissing the import of global warming.

The president's science advisor is often a physicist, but usually comes out of federal labs. Bush appointee John Marburger, who directed Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York in the late 1990s, has served in the post since 2001. John Gibbons, a former physicist at Oak Ridge National Lab, was former President Clinton's science advisor from 1993 to 1998, a role that Neal Lane, formerly director of the National Science Foundation, held from 1998 until 2001.

Obama's transition-team press office did not return a call or email seeking comment. Holdren also did not return calls and an email.

Image of John Holdren/Tom Fitzsimmons

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