Marine Ecologist Jane Lubchenco Joins Obama's Green Team


Oregon State University marine ecologist and former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Jane Lubchenco is rumored to be President-elect Obama's choice for head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Although formally housed at the Commerce Department, NOAA describes its mission as:

To understand and predict changes in Earth's environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our Nation's economic, social, and environmental needs. 

Subagencies under NOAA's umbrella include the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Weather Service. Like earlier Obama appointments to the Green Team, Lubchenco is a strong proponent of rationing carbon dioxide emissions to control man-made global warming. Lubchenco organized the AAAS 2007 statement on climate change which declared:

The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now….

The growing torrent of information presents a clear message: we are already experiencing global climate change. It is time to muster the political will for concerted action. Stronger leadership at all levels is needed. The time is now. We must rise to the challenge. We owe this to future generations.

Happily, Lubchenco seems to favor using property rights to restore depleted fisheries. During a panel discussion in 2007, Lubchenco noted:

… I think one of the real challenges is with fisheries is that the economics of fishing right now is sort of stacking the deck against fishermen and against fish, both. And there are some very interesting new ways of reorganizing or restructuring fisheries that reward fishermen for being good conservationists, not just for being good exploiters. And some of those, some baby steps in that direction were included in the Magnuson Fisheries Reauthorization this last year and I am referring specifically to what economists call "Dedicated Access Privileges" or DAPs. Those are a variety of economic tools, one of which, for example, are known as ITQs, "Individual Transferable Quotas."

There are a lot of different variations on this thing, but the idea is that instead of every fisherman just fishing like crazy until the total allowable catch has been caught in any particular season, the idea is to guarantee or to allocate the total catch to individuals based on their history or some other rational way of doing it, so that they have a guaranteed fraction of the catch, regardless of what the total catch is and that, in fact, changes the dynamics because they then have incentive to make sure that there are enough fish to be caught next year, and the next year, and the next year. So it enables them to take a long term perspective and have the value of their portfolio grow through time not just to be exploited this year and so I don't want to go into more detail about this except to say that there are some very innovative, new ways of restructuring fisheries to align fishermen's interests with conservation interests that are economically profitable over the long term not just the short term and that that is being actively performed by science and that is actually a good thing, it's a nice tool that has complimented marine reserves that I think will provide for hope for the future of oceans.

Whole AAAS climate change statement here.