- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2004

The scientific approach

I was not surprised to read Patrick Michaels’ recent Op-Ed column (“National Geographic melting down?” Commentary, Sept. 7) about our September cover story “Global Warning.” It was flattering in its predictability. In meticulously researching this story for four years and interviewing and consulting with a wide range of the world’s leading scientists, we anticipated that we would spark commentary from the few, yet vocal, naysayers who doggedly continue to dispute the facts of global climate change in the face of prevailing scientific evidence.

In addition to reporting on the extensive observations of field scientists, our story is based on the consensus work of hundreds of scientists participating in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report, the 2001 Report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, “Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions,” and also on the rapidly increasing body of scientific reports on climate change published since by major journals such as Science and Nature.

In light of Mr. Michaels’ strong ties to the fuel industry — ties he neglected to reveal in his commentary — it is ironic that he accuses National Geographic of pushing a particular agenda. Your readers might find it of interest to know that the World Climate Report, edited by Mr. Michaels, is published by the Greening Earth Society, which is funded and controlled by the Western Fuels Association, an association of coal-burning utility companies. The Greening Earth Society’s Web site states that its “climate focus expresses scientific skepticism concerning the potential for catastrophic changes in climate due to humanity’s emissions of CO2.”

Can an organization be a truly objective source of information when its stated purpose is to support a specific position? The answer is no.

At National Geographic, we adhere to the adage that objectivity is the first test of a scientific approach. As such, with all of our stories we remain open to the results of objective scientific study before drawing informed conclusions. In the case of global warming, the preponderance of scientific evidence worldwide overwhelmingly proves the planet is heating up and that our burning of fossil fuels is contributing to this. Though this news might make Mr. Michaels and his benefactors uncomfortable, we cannot afford to ignore the scientific facts.

WILLIAM L. ALLEN

Editor in chief

National Geographic

Washington

The record on Nepal

Our attention has been drawn to Chitra Tiwari’s article “Nepal’s poor suffer most in civil war” (World, Saturday). Mr. Tiwari appears to be watching recent developments in Nepal with interest, but not always as an impartial observer.

Mr. Tiwari chooses to call the Maoists “revolutionaries” and says they are angry with Washington for listing the Maoist party as a terrorist organization. The truth is that the Maoists are on a U.S. watch list of “other terrorist groups.”

Mr. Tiwari talks of “military atrocities” and “guerrilla vengeance,” very conveniently overlooking that it was the Maoists who first dared the Royal Nepal Army by launching a brutal surprise attack on one of its barracks in midwestern Nepal about three years ago. The RNA is a professional force, committed to duty, discipline and caring for the civilian population. Any accusation of military atrocities against the civilian population by the RNA is malicious propaganda.

Suspected cases of disappearances and extrajudicial killings are something to be handled judiciously and under the law.

Also, Nepal has not opened Iraq for the Nepalese to seek foreign employment. Those who have made their way to Iraq for work have done so of their own choice and free will. The recent gruesome killing of 12 innocent Nepalese youths by an Iraqi fundamentalist group came as a great shock to the whole nation.

The Nepalese government observed a day of national mourning in honor of the innocent victims and also announced monetary compensation to the bereaved families. Although instant reactions to the incident were more emotional and violent in Katmandu, the government immediately took measures to bring the situation under control so as not to allow this incident to vitiate the age-old tradition of religious tolerance and social harmony in Nepal.

Mr. Tiwari’s observation that poverty allows no room for reform in Nepal is ludicrous. Anyone who has cared to study the far-reaching changes — social, economic and political — that have been taking place in Nepalese society during the past decade or so would find it hard to agree with Mr. Tiwari’s assertion. At the same time, the empirically established facts that “Maoism is a failed ideology” and an “inappropriate model for the 21st century” need no further corroboration.

Eight consecutive years of mindless violence, terror, intimidation and use of force by the Maoists have only frightened away the youths from the remote interior of Nepal. Likewise, internal dislocations also have brought untold hardships to the common people. The increasing exodus of youths abroad, some of them even to unsafe places such as Iraq, is the direct result of the excesses of the Maoists in rural Nepal. Their intolerance of political and ideological opponents is heinously blatant and far from universal democratic norms and values.

The common people of Nepal want peace and prosperity, not the forced closures of schools, businesses and industries by the Maoists. What is even more troubling is that the Maoists have engaged in kidnapping hundreds of schoolchildren and teachers for indoctrination. They have ignored repeated calls to allow schools to operate as zones of peace. The Nepalese government wants the Maoists to shun violence and terror campaigns and come to terms with the multiparty parliamentary system of governance, which can accommodate and address all the genuine concerns of the Nepalese people.

There is no doubt that by their own excesses, the Maoists are alienating themselves from the people day by day. They have taken many innocent lives in a cruel and ruthless manner in the past eight years. Their so-called “people’s war” has turned out to be a war against the people.

Mr. Tiwari’s apparent endorsement of the idea that the Maoists will win election for the constituent assembly is as intriguing as it is misplaced. If the Maoists are so confident in themselves, why should they shy away from taking part in the general elections and issue threats to the election commissioners? It is because they are afraid of participating in the general elections, as their supposed strength lies in terror tactics, intimidation and violent methods of operation.

Therefore, the only feasible “strategic offensive” available for the Maoists is to come for peace talks with the government by eschewing violence and terror tactics for good. The sooner they do so and come to the mainstream of national politics under the multiparty parliamentary system, the better it will be for them, for the country and for the Nepalese people.

RUDRA K. NEPAL

Deputy chief of mission

Embassy of Nepal

Washington

Nuclear waste at Yucca

Contrary to Ed Feulner’s assertions (“Wasting a good solution,” Commentary, Sept. 6), Yucca Mountain would not be a solution to the country’s high-level-waste problems.

Mr. Feulner is wrong about the geology at Yucca Mountain; the site cannot be accurately described as stable, dry or contained. Nevada is the third-most-earthquake-prone state in the United States. Since 1976, more than 600 seismic events of a magnitude greater than 2.5 have occurred within a 50-mile radius of Yucca Mountain, according to the Southern Great Basin Seismic Network.

Further, radioactive particles from bomb tests on the federal government’s Nevada nuclear test site, which is Yucca’s neighbor, have found their way through the rock to repository depth after just 50 years, not the thousands of years predicted. This indicates that the site is far less watertight than first thought.

The most pervasive myth surrounding the Yucca Mountain project is that it will result in the consolidation of our nation’s waste so that it will no longer be in anyone’s “back yard.” Yet all nuclear waste must sit at each site for at least five years before being moved anywhere because it is too hot. The average nuclear plant creates 40,000 to 60,000 pounds of high-level waste per year, meaning that every nuclear plant will always have at least 200,000 pounds of waste on site.

We agree that much political wrangling has occurred around Yucca, but science speaks for itself.

WENONAH HAUTER

Director, Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program

Public Citizen

Washington

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