Creating a sustainable future based on clean energy from renewable sources is the challenge facing incoming US energy secretary Ernest Moniz. Elsewhere in the world, progress is already being made.

Green_Lighbulb_ButtonIn northern Europe, spring has finally sprung — although winter still continues elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere (witness the snowed-in delegates at the American Physical Society’s April Meeting). The delayed onset of the cheering warmer weather is a consequence of unusual contortions of the polar jet stream: writing in Environmental Research Letters, Qiuhong Tang and colleagues1 link this disruption to the diminishing area, measured over more than three decades, of winter sea ice in the Arctic. The planet and its climate are changing.

It’s a challenge to all humankind, a responsibility on the shoulders of world leaders and their chosen staff — one of whom is Ernest Moniz, nominated by President Obama to take over the role of US Secretary of Energy from Nobel-winning physicist Steven Chu. Moniz is also a physicist, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but one whose career has taken in stints as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy and as Undersecretary in the Department of Energy (DOE) under the Clinton administration.

Since 2001, as Moniz described during his Senate confirmation hearing2 last month, his “principal focus has been at the intersection of energy technology and policy, especially on research and education aimed at a future low-carbon economy”. In 2006, he was appointed founding Director of the MIT Energy Initiative3, which encompasses scientific research, policy studies and education, as well as campus energy management. Moniz would seem to have exceptional experience — of energy matters and of Washington — that should equip him well for the role of energy secretary (and confirmation of his appointment by the Senate was expected as Nature Physics went to press).

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Source: Nature Physics | May 2, 2013