Democrat Photo | Jeanne Sager
BOB SCHOCK WAS a coordinating author on a report on global warming for which his organization won a share of the Nobel Prize in Peace.
Rock Hill's Schock Shares Nobel Prize
By Jeanne Sager
LIVERMORE, CALIF. November 2, 2007 Like most scientists, Bob Schock has long harbored the secret fantasy that one day the Nobel Foundation would come calling.
When the announcements began breaking of this year’s Laureates, Schock teased wife Susan that an early morning call was from the people responsible for awarding prizes in the name of late Swedish millionaire Alfred Nobel.
He was referring, of course, to the prizes awarded by the Nobel Foundation for achievements in the sciences.
Traditionally, awardees get a call from the foundation just moments before a press conference is held to announce the laureate’s name to the world.
Just a few days later, the joke was on him.
The Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps the best known of the five prizes provided for in Nobel’s last will and testament, was announced on October 12 by Professor Ole Danbolt Mjøs, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
As is often the case, the prize will be shared by two parties.
Schock a 1956 graduate of Monticello High School, who calls Sullivan County his home in the summer months is one of those parties.
Technically he’s one of several hundred.
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 was awarded to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) along with former Vice President Al Gore.
As a coordinating lead author on the IPCC report presented in Bangkok earlier this year, Schock has earned a small piece of this year’s award.
“It’s a small piece of a part of prize,” he said with a laugh.
Any piece is enough for Schock.
“As a scientist of course we’re very aware of the Nobel prizes in science, but you tend not to think of the Nobel Peace Prize and winning it,” he admitted.
“But it was a pleasant surprise, the emphasis on pleasant.”
Schock, who grew up in Kiamesha Lake, had a bent toward science from childhood when he spent his days exploring the woods and wondering why nature works as it does.
He graduated from high school, spent two years at Orange County Community College, then headed west to earn a bachelor’s degree at Colorado College.
He returned to New York and studied geochemistry and geophysics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, earning his masters and PhD.
In the years since, Schock and his wife, another member of the Monticello High School Class of 1956, the former Susan Benton, have made their permanent home in Livermore, Calif., but kept a summer home in Rock Hill.
From 1968 until 2002, Bob worked at the University of California’s National Laboratory in Livermore.
His retirement paved the way for him to begin consulting, which has included work on the country’s nuclear power issues and how they relate to weapons proliferation, especially that of North Korea.
His work with the IPCC began in 2004 with a nomination by the Bush administration to work as one of two coordinating authors on the report due in 2007.
Because of his expertise on the subject, Schock was assigned to work on the chapter devoted to energy sources.
The fourth report commissioned by the United Nations outlines how choices made now by governments and industries will affect future energy security, air quality, public health, employment and the trade balance.
In its announcement of this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee credited the reports made over the years for connecting human activities with global warming.
Since making the announcement, the committee has received criticism for deviating from the strict wording of Nobel’s will, which called for a peace prize awarded to a person or persons who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses.”
Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, has been quoted in the international press describing a broad definition of Nobel’s words.
“When seas rise, the number of climate refugees could quickly rise,” Lundestad said. “When glaciers melt, rivers will be reduced or even dry out. The lack of resources will increase in parts of the world.
“All this will put weak states under great pressure,” he said. “Drought and desertification have already led to the first ‘climate wars’ in Darfur and in the whole of the Sahel belt across Africa.”
Schock, who is now working as director of studies for the World Energy Council (WEC), said even as people have become more aware of climate change they’re still not zeroing in on what he calls “the three Ps.”
Population, poverty and pollution all have an affect on climate change and the future, he explained.
“There are 2 billion people in the world who have no, capital N, capital O, no, access to modern energy,” he noted.
Not making changes now, on all ends of the spectrum, will lead to unrest, Schock said.
That’s where science meets the peace process.
Still in recovery mode from surgery earlier this fall, Schock has already booked his trip to Rome, Italy for the 20th World Energy Congress where he’ll be part of the WEC’s presentation.
With “the energy future in an interdependent world” as its main theme, this year’s Congress will look at energy policy scenarios through 2050.
One of the largest studies Schock has overseen for the WEC, which will be presented in full at the Congress, the overview of energy policy includes input from 60 different member countries.
“We think it’s possible to meet the need for access to energy while keeping energy reliable and addressing the climate change issue,” Schock said. “By 2050, we can be well on our way to a carbon-free energy.”
The chair of the study will make the presentation in Rome, but Schock will join him right after for a press conference with the secretary general of the WEC.
He’s been told there’s room for eight scientist members of the IPCC at the official Nobel presentation in Oslo, Norway with King Harald V on Dec. 10.
With 200 members, Schock isn’t counting on being among those chosen.
“My chances are at least better than winning the California lottery,” he quipped.
As for his prize, there won’t be an official medal to hang in the Schock home.
The Nobel Foundation specifically precludes the medal and diplomas from duplication so he won’t get a copy.
For Schock, the mark on his resume and the sense of accomplishment is enough.
When a few of the scientists who worked on the fourth report, including Schock, appeared in Bangkok in front of the delegates of the United Nations, they received a standing ovation of more than a minute.
To move the United Nations to their feet, now that’s a taste of success.