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Global Warming? Ask A County Man

By Jeanne Sager
Posted 12/31/69

ROCK HILL — Ask Bob Schock, “how’s the weather?” and you’re bound to get the real answer. To members of the Class of ’56 at Monticello High School, he’s just …

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Global Warming? Ask A County Man


ROCK HILL — Ask Bob Schock, “how’s the weather?” and you’re bound to get the real answer.
To members of the Class of ’56 at Monticello High School, he’s just Bob, the vice president of the science club, the guy who drove a truck in the summer for A.T. Reynolds, who drove the Monticello teachers crazy by refusing to study for any test except the Regents exam (in those days, that was the only one that counted).
To the international science community, he’s Dr. Robert Schock, director of studies for the World Energy Council and a coordinating lead author on the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
His name and scientific expertise grace the pages of the United Nations’ most recent project aimed at determining how humans have affected the climate and what can be done to mitigate its effects.
But when the New York Times cites the IPCC in its bleak forecast for the future of the environment or the Australian government incorporates the latest report into its policies, they’re not talking about Bob Schock.
And Schock is OK with that.
He’s already testified in front of the United States Congress on pending legislation.
He’s served on a National Science Foundation panel on Instrumentation and Facilities and a Department of Energy (DOE) Advisory Committee panel to define world-class research in nuclear energy for the U.S.
He’s been involved in the government’s development of its agreements with Russia and North Korea, and helped plan the 17th World Energy Congress.
Early love of the natural world
He’s not in it for the fame.
He’s a scientist because he spent his days growing up in Kiamesha Lake wandering in the woods, his mind buzzing with questions about the world.
“I loved going into the woods, and as I got older, I went further and further afield,” Schock recalled fondly. “It was a great place for kids to learn about nature.”
Schock trapped muskrats – or, at the very least, tried to. He tapped maple trees and made up bottles of syrup on an outdoor fireplace, selling his concoctions to his mother’s colleagues at Monticello Central’s Cooke Elementary School.
By the time he graduated from high school, Schock was intent on a scientific adventure.
He spent two years at Orange County Community College – in the days before Sullivan County had its own junior college – hopping on a bus to Middletown every Sunday.
From there, Schock headed to Colorado Springs, Colo. to earn a bachelor’s from Colorado College.
“I got interested in geology and somehow found out the place to study rocks was out west – where you could see rocks!” he said with a laugh.
He returned east to study first geochemistry then geophysics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, earning his masters and PhD.
Married by then to the former Susan Benton, a high school classmate who spurned his request for a date in school but “took another look” years later, Schock moved west in the late 1960s to take a post-doctorate fellowship at the University of Chicago.
“Her family thought I was going to be a professional student,” he recalled with a grin.
Making the big time at lab
In 1968, Schock left school to take a job at the University of California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“The attraction of a national lab was an incredible amount of funding and the opportunity to do experiments you couldn’t do on a university level,” Schock explained.
It was the 1960s, when freedom of thought was embraced and convention thrown out the window.
“It was a time when traditional academic disciplines – in science any way – were breaking down,” Schock explained.
He got real work done.
Working his way from senior scientist to associate director for energy at the national lab, Schock initiated and led programs in advanced energy technologies.
He studied the behavior of matter under pressures and temperatures.
“I think what I’m most proud of is hooking up with some really ingenious colleagues and publishing papers in the ’60s on some aspects of high pressure geophysics that are still referenced today,” Schock noted.
In the ever-changing world of science, that’s an accomplishment.
Schock has always termed himself an “experimental” scientist.
“I don’t like to get bored,” he said with laugh.
He excelled in the sciences in Monticello because they were interesting.
“I did well in things I liked,” he explained. “I hated Latin!”
Keeping boredom at bay
When he retired from the national lab in 2002, Schock wasn’t ready to sit on his laurels.
He started consulting.
He worked on the country’s nuclear power issues and how they relate to weapons proliferation, especially that of North Korea.
He did a series of conferences around the globe on 50 years since President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace speech in front of the United Nations.
In 2004, he was nominated by the Bush administration to join the accomplished group of scientists developing the fourth assessment of the human impact on climate change – scheduled for release in 2007.
Schock took over as one of two coordinating authors on the chapter devoted to energy sources.
The process ended in May, when the IPCC made its presentation in Bangkok, but Schock has since taken a job with the World Energy Council.
The job was supposed to be London-based, but Schock said he wasn’t interested.
They called back. He could remain in California, but they wanted his mind.
Now Schock is responsible for global studies for the Rome World Energy Congress in November.
He travels a few times a month, he said, to places around the globe.
He’s been to London four times this year, to Bangkok, Paris, Johannesburg and locales along the way.
Summers are spent in Rock Hill, a tradition since Bob and Susan were dating. They retain a home in the mountains, and their three daughters and four grandsons visit each year.
Science and politics
Schock is encouraged by the slow shift the world is making toward better environmental stewardship.
He’s got a fast answer for those conspiracy theorists and naysayers and doubters of the human impact on climate.
“You have your ideas, but they’re not science,” he says.
“I have a scientific reputation to uphold, and I could lose it overnight if I falsified my findings for someone’s political gain,” Schock explained.
Once those findings make their way into the political realm, Schock said he knows it’s hands off.
“As you get older, you realize nobody has a monopoly on ideas,” he noted. “There are people who, for whatever reason, are elected.
“If you can give them knowledge, scientific knowledge, that makes a difference, who cares who gets the credit?” he asked.
“I took to energy and got into energy when I was at the national lab,” Schock continued, “because I quickly realized energy is important to everything we do.
“It doesn’t come easily, it doesn't come inexpensively,” he said.
But the study of energy brings one simple conclusion, Schock said.
“You realize we’re not a bunch of Americans living in isolation,” he explained. “People have been talking about the weather forever, but the world is a big place that’s been around for 41⁄2 billion years.
“It’s impossible to predict with 100 percent certainty what’s going to happen, but the preponderance of the evidence is that man is affecting the environment,” Schock said.


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