Category Archives: General News

Remembering Nelson Mandela

The World Loses One of

Its Most Beloved Statesmen and Leaders

 

The world lost Nelson Mandela yesterday at the age of 95. He was South Africa’s first black president and one of the world’s most beloved statesmen.

President Obama mourned the death of Mandela, calling him one of the “most influential, courageous and profoundly good” people to have ever lived. The President ordered flags immediately lowered to half staff until Monday evening in honor of the anti-apartheid leader hailed around the world.

“He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today he’s gone home,” an emotional Obama said, in remarks from the White House, and added: “He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.” 

Retired foreign service officer and NSF member Ted Morse drafted this personal reflection on the passing of the man South Africans called “Madiba”.

 

Personal Reflections on Mandela

Madiba was the iconic leader against Apartheid’s “separation” of people by race and color; the fact that he could provide that leadership and inspiration while incarcerated in prison for 27 years is an unheard of accomplishment. His humane leadership against discrimination became a world example and tribute to his principled stature. Madiba understood the historical transition from colonialism in Africa that had proceeded in the 50s and 60s and 70s; he guided that late 1980s and early 1990s transition in South Africa with reconciliation, political wisdom, and humility that avoided what the world had come to expect would be a violent destruction of the continent’s most prosperous country. He led his new country to representative democracy when many expected he and the country would follow the authoritarian countries that had supported the ANC.

His unique leadership for reconciliation was embraced and put into practice by his fellow Peace Prize winners- President deKlerk and Bishop Tutu. His commitments to reconciliation were reflected in his policies: “Hold your friends close, and hold your enemies even closer”.  “Consuming the drink of revenge believing it will hurt your enemies only poisons you.”

My family and I were inspired by Mandela and South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement to demonstrate our American commitment to pluralism and equality by taking mixed race tennis teams from our Embassy in Swaziland to play in black Soweto in the late 1970s. I had the privileged assignment to study in South Africa (and see eventually adopted) a change of US government foreign policy to support peaceful change inside South Africa, which followed highly instructive conversations with Bishop Tutu and Mandela followers in the mid-1980s. While serving in Washington with the State Department and US Embassy Zambia, I followed with great anticipation the secret negotiations between the apartheid South African government and Mandela before his release from prison that set the framework for replacing apartheid with representative government.

From service in Harare, our family shared unreserved joy at Mandela’s release in 1990 and election in 1994 as the first black majority president of the new South Africa (and held high, still unrealized, hopes that Zimbabwe would follow Mandela’s examples of fairness and reconciliation). In retirement, my wife and I have taken dozens of Sierra Nevada College and UNR students to South Africa over the last six years, and a special focus is to learn of Mandela’s principled contribution to the world. In our SNC Leadership class, Mandela is always a case study of true leadership values–from a freedom fighter to great president.

It was a thirty year professional and personal privilege to observe Mandela’s legacy for the ages unfold.

 –Ted Morse, retired US Senior Foreign Service Officer

Climate Change Resources for Doubters

Climate Change Resources for the Doubters

Our NSF session on Global Climate Change drew much more commentary than the average presentation. In this case, not so much on the changing climate, but on the discussion regarding the causes of this warming and other events.

I promised to place on the website alternative sources if our members would let me know what resources the “doubters” rely on. Below I include the primary sources that were provided to me.

I am not swayed by them. As I said earlier, for years I harbored doubts on the extent of climate change and the causes, but am now squarely in the camp that acknowledges the climate is changing, and rapidly. I also subscribe to the conclusion backed by an overwhelming number of scientific studies that a major cause of the changes is due to man-made carbon emissions.

However, as I have also said, I agree with the Danish scientist, Bjorn Lomborg, who while agreeing with the science, recommends that we learn to adjust to climate change to the extent we can, and not commit economic suicide in attempting to mitigate all of the consequences.

No one has provided what I would call a science-based alternative study to counter the above conclusions. I did receive recommendations that I—and our membership—needed to read certain pieces, which I duly now pass on.

The first is a 98 slide PowerPoint by the flier Dick Rutan, who reminds us often in the presentation that he is an engineer. Not a scientist, but an engineer, but do read thru the slides if you can.

I have also appended a link to Dr. Fred Singer, now almost 90, a scientist who is on record of opposing the notion that man has contributed to climate change (Singer also opposes the idea that 2nd-hand smoke can cause cancer).

One participant strongly recommended I read a piece from RANGE magazine, which I include a link to. Now I like RANGE magazine and its editor, C.J. Hadley, for its robust defense of ranching and Western independence. Not sure it comes to my mind as the definitive source for climate change opinion, but here it tis.

CATO is doing some work on this topic as well.

Dr. Steve Atcheson, a Reno physician, sent a lengthy email defending the skeptical view. Two references are included that he strongly recommended, one by the science fiction writer Michael Crichton, and the 2nd by Princeton professor William Happer.

Enjoy!

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Here is the link to the Rutan presentation:

http://rps3.com/Files/AGW/EngrCritique.AGW-Science.v4.3.pdf

Here is the link to the RANGE Magazine article by Dr. Michael Coffman

http://www.rangemagazine.com/features/winter-13/range-wi13-climate_fraud.pdf

Here is the link to the CATO Institute. It has several short and some longer reports on the topic that you might consult.

Click here: The Cato Institute

Here is a link to Dr. Singer’s work

Click here: Climate Deniers Are Giving Us Skeptics a Bad Name: Newsroom: The Independent Institute

And here is the link to the Crichton article:

http://kaahlsfiles.com/thesis/thesis%20papers/3%20Low/crichton2003.pdf.

And finally to the Happer piece:

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/05/the-truth-about-greenhouse-gases.

 

Now that does it for me! If you want to continue the debate with Dr. McCarthy, be my guest. But I need to move on from this overly emotional topic!

–Ty

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Postscript: One point that was made in the presentation was that Hoover Dam, because of low water inflows from the Colorado River, has stopped producing electricity. Not the case, at least not yet—the Bureau of Reclamation is very concerned with the drop in the water level in Lake Mead, but feels that the Dam can continue to produce electricity until 2016. After that, they are less certain….and that could be a major economic catastrophe.

Dr. McCarthy’s Climate Change Presentation

 

Dr. Maureen McCarthy’s comprehensive overview of the national security implications of climate change and global warming was well received and drew a number of comments and interesting observations.

While there are not many who dispute that the climate is changing and warming, many are still not convinced that there is scientific evidence that this global warming is caused to any extent by man-made carbon emissions. However, a report out this week indicates that more than 97% of the scientific community concurs with that conclusion–a position I agree with as does Dr. McCarthy.

If anyone has access to the evidence that points in the opposite direction, I would be pleased to post it. For now, we encourage everyone to review Maureen’s PowerPoint presentation (click here).

Final December 5th Meeting Announcement

The National Security Forum presents

Dr. Maureen McCarthy

Executive Director of the Tahoe Science Consortium (TSC)

on

“The National Security Implications of

Global Climate Change”

The Ramada, Wednesday, December 5, 9 am

 

**While the focus of this presentation is not on the causes of climate change, the speaker said she would be pleased to take up that controversy at the end of our discussion.**

There is now general agreement that the global climate is changing—primarily warming. The causes of these changes are still a matter of hot debate—are they “natural” or heavily influenced by man-made greenhouse gases. However, for the U.S. national security community the primary focus now is how to deal with future anticipated changes, not how they are caused.

To date the United States has assumed, at best, a tepid global leadership role on this issue. We now risk being unprepared economically, militarily, socially, and politically to adapt to a warmer and less predictable world. This is despite the fact that many senior military and national security leaders from both parties have stated that global climate change is a major threat to our national security and one that is expected to increase in the coming decades.

This talk will consider several key questions that should be addressed in evaluating the national security implications of United States action or inaction in response to global climate change. These include….

  • Is Superstorm Sandy a harbinger of things to come?  More catastrophic flooding? More oil production/refining taken out?
  • Are we prepared and can we afford to respond to a growing number of extreme weather-related events including super storms, droughts, floods, wildfires, disease outbreaks, and coastal flooding? Mass migrations? Pandemics? Arctic ice melt?
  • How should the United States respond to the emergence of new “climate winners and losers”?
  • Can the United States afford to abdicate leadership of the global agenda for mitigating and adapting to climate change?

Dr. McCarthy has nearly two decades experience in directing programs in science, technology, intelligence analysis, and homeland security.  She is currently the Executive Director of the Tahoe Science Consortium and a member of the UNR faculty.  During her tenure in Washington D.C., Maureen served in the Bush Administration as a member of the Transition Planning Office that created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and was the first Director of Research & Development for the newly created DHS.  As DHS Chief of WMD Intelligence & Border Security, Maureen contributed to the “2008 National Intelligence Assessment on National Security Implications of Climate Change to 2030.”  Prior to 9/11, Maureen coordinated nuclear weapons and nonproliferation programs as Chief Scientist for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Senior Advisor for National Security to the Secretary of Energy. Maureen was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel and has a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from the University of Colorado and a B.Sc. in Chemistry from Boston College.

Attendees are encouraged to arrive by 8:30 to enjoy pre-meeting coffee and conversations. A full breakfast will be served and the cost is $15 (free for students with I.D.), payable at the door.

Please RSVP (attendees only!) on the NSF website (CLICK HERE), by email (twcobb@aol.com), or by phone (775) 746-3222.

Global Climate Change: Illusion or Fact?

Colleagues: Our NSF will be treated to what is certain to be a controversial presentation on December 5, “The National Security Implications of Global Climate Change”, with Dr. Maureen McCarthy. The assertion of any change in the climate will likely be challenged, as will the role that man-made emissions play in that change—if any.

This is a topic that I have followed closely for more than 30 years, beginning with two assignments in the Reagan White House—as the WH/NSC director in charge of formulating the U.S. position on the Montreal Protocol (ozone depletion caused by chemicals) and acid rain, in which much of the U.S. denied any relation to carbon emissions, especially from coal-fired plants. The Reagan administration made significant progress in both areas, taking the lead on the Montreal Protocol negotiations despite strenuous opposition within the administration, and reducing our emissions significantly of S02 and NO2 to degrade acid rain.

Like U.C. professor Richard Mueller, who writes of his own conversion from skeptic to believer on this topic, this is a road I have traveled. For a long time I doubted the conclusion that the earth was warming, which now seems quite clear, and that man-made emissions played any role in that (which it now seems certain is a major cause).

Many of you will have different opinions. Lord knows there is no shortage of data on all sides of this question to support any position! However, I have also found that most folks enter this discussion with such strong ideological beliefs that perusing the data for them is more an exercise in finding statistics to support their desired position than it is to ascertain the truth.

A final point, one that Mueller makes but not strongly enough: I agree we have to examine a wide range of measures to alleviate the negative impact of global climate change. However, in doing so, we must be careful to insure that we don’t commit economic suicide—especially at a time of deep recession (in this I recommend our readers consult the work of the Danish scientist, Bjorn Lomborg, who in my opinion presents the most balanced approach in addressing the challenge of climate change.)

Below please find an excerpt of a NYT article on Reagan and the Montreal protocol and an earlier NYT piece by Prof. Mueller.

Ty

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NYT, November 10, 2012

 

Climate Change: Lessons From Ronald Reagan

By CASS R. SUNSTEIN

THE re-election of President Obama, preceded by the extraordinary damage done by Hurricane Sandy, raises a critical question: In the coming years, might it be possible for the United States to take significant steps to reduce the risks associated with climate change?

A crucial decision during Ronald Reagan’s second term suggests that the answer may well be yes. The Reagan administration was generally skeptical about costly environmental rules, but with respect to protection of the ozone layer, Reagan was an environmentalist hero.

Under his leadership, the United States became the prime mover behind the Montreal Protocol, which required the phasing out of ozone-depleting chemicals.

There is a real irony here. Republicans and conservatives had ridiculed scientists who expressed concern about the destruction of the ozone layer. How did Ronald Reagan, of all people, come to favor aggressive regulatory steps and lead the world toward a strong and historic international agreement?

A large part of the answer lies in a tool disliked by many progressives but embraced by Reagan (and Mr. Obama): cost-benefit analysis. Reagan’s economists found that the costs of phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals were a lot lower than the costs of not doing so —largely measured in terms of avoiding cancers that would otherwise occur. Presented with that analysis, Reagan decided that the issue was pretty clear.

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NYT, July 28, 2012

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic

By RICHARD A. MULLER

Berkeley, Calif.

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the I.P.C.C. consensus statement, that the warming before 1956 could be because of changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural.

Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions.

The historic temperature pattern we observed has abrupt dips that match the emissions of known explosive volcanic eruptions; the particulates from such events reflect sunlight, make for beautiful sunsets and cool the earth’s surface for a few years. There are small, rapid variations attributable to El Niño and other ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream; because of such oscillations, the “flattening” of the recent temperature rise that some people claim is not, in our view, statistically significant. What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice.

Just as important, our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent. Although the I.P.C.C. allowed for the possibility that variations in sunlight could have ended the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cooling from the 14th century to about 1850, our data argues strongly that the temperature rise of the past 250 years cannot be attributed to solar changes. This conclusion is, in retrospect, not too surprising; we’ve learned from satellite measurements that solar activity changes the brightness of the sun very little.

How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.

It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.

Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.

What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.

Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.

Richard A. Muller, is a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former MacArthur Foundation fellow.