What's causing this crazy weather?

BILL STEPHENSON January 1 1966

What's causing this crazy weather?

BILL STEPHENSON January 1 1966


Conclusion of a series: OUR MAN IN NEW YORK

Terence Robertson

A showdown was imminent. "Pay up - or else!" was the U. S. demand on France and the Soviet bloc. The U.N. faced possible breakdown. Then Paul Tremblay produced a "piece of paper" that steered the world from a collision course


For it is quite possible that none of it, not the gay festivities nor even the session itself, would have taken place but for the private crisis diplomacy of a handful of diplomats led by a Canadian you rarely hear of or read about.

He is Paul Tremblay, a stockily built, dark-featured former Montreal lawyer who has been Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations for the past four years.

During one weekend in August, for

THE UNITED NATIONS General Assembly, scene of so many inflamed, angry clashes on such explosive issues as colonialism, racism, and nationalism, has ended its three-month session here, subdued and uneasy, the delegates thankful that none of the emotional denunciations that strained previous sessions had marred the celebrations of the UN’s twentieth birthday.

For it is that of

him an agonizingly long and fateful weekend, just two weeks before the session was due to begin, his small group averted a massive collision between the Soviet bloc and France on the one side, and the United States on the other — a collision which could have gravely damaged the UN.

Tremblay, bespectacled and deceptively studious-looking, prefers obscurity to publicity. Though his job requires that he frequently stand up in the spotlight to state Canada’s policies on a wide range of subjects, his natural environment is the privacy of closed conference rooms.

Born in Chicoutimi, Quebec, he studied law and went into practice in Montreal “for no better reason than it was expected of me because my father and grandfather were lawyers.”

He specialized in constitutional law. Finding it tedious, he flirted briefly

with the idea of turning physicist, then decided to become a diplomat instead. When he joined External Affairs and moved to Ottawa twenty-five years ago, his English was poor. Since then he has become polished, deft and smoothly articulate in English and Spanish as well as French. At UN meetings and in his own offices, he uses French. Occasionally (“about one speech in six”) he delivers a formal address in English and for doing so is invariably criticized by some Quebec newspapers. Such criticism used to worry him but now, he says, it no longer does. Even when he is not absorbed in UN business, his tastes remain urbane and esoteric and sometimes reflect his early interest in physics; his notion of a relaxing and enjoyable evening is to settle down with the latest scientific textbook.

Tremblay served in junior posts in

Washington, Paris, and The Hague before becoming Canadian ambassador to Chile. This is his first time in one of the critical hot seats of big-league international diplomacy, a political storm centre where the atmosphere is almost always electric.

He had barely enough time to become familiar with the workings of “The Glass House,” as UN headquarters is called by “in” people, before he had to assist the then External Affairs Minister Howard Green maintain uneasy relations with Havana during the 1962 Cuban crisis. Subsequently, he worked closely with the present minister, Paul Martin, and United Nations Secretary-General U Thant while the Cyprus peace-keeping force was being put together in 1964.

But it was the crisis-killing role he played at the outset of this last session, a role he didn’t have to seek because it was thrust upon him by the UN’s drift toward self-destruction, that proved to be the most important he has yet undertaken. This was no flashpoint crisis, bursting violently upon the world with the sudden thunder of gunfire. It was grim, deliberately reached climax to one of the most protracted, bitterly fought power struggles in the history of the United Nations.

The problem centred on Article 19 of the UN Charter, which provides the General Assembly with the means to penalize countries refusing to pay their assessed shares of UN costs by depriving them of their right to vote. The founding nations intended this ultimate measure as a sanction against countries that did not pay their bills.

As the Middle East peace force (UNEF) had been authorized by the General Assembly and not by the Security Council it was, in the Soviet view, illegal. In the case of the Congo operation, the Soviet Union again refused to pay (even though the UN force was approved by the Security Council) because in Russian eyes it was being improperly run by the Secretary-General. France’s refusal to pay for the Congo operation was based on the assumption that the General Assembly has the right to recommend, not authorize, and member states can accept or reject such recommendations. On the other hand France pays its dues for the UNEF operation.

The United States, which picks up the largest shares of all UN tabs anyway. considered that these stands undermined the principle of collective responsibility. The U. S. was deter-' mined, as long ago as the 1964 General Assembly session, to invoke Article 19 against the delinquents.

“Canada supported the United States at first,” continued on page 40

Computers are compressing centuries to learn what man’s done to the weather


continued from page 24

hundred thousand years,” Thomas explains. “Are they positive the snowdrifts around their boyhood homes were much taller than the ones nowadays, or are they just looking at them from higher up? Were summers twenty years ago actually hotter, or has their blood thinned out?”

Men such as Thomas feel themselves on really safe ground only when discussing changes over the last twentythousand-odd years, because there is general agreement among all climatologists that the world’s climate is getting warmer. But whether we are comfortably in the middle of a warming cycle or near the end is another matter.

“We just don’t have enough statistical data to know whether this is freak weather or a new trend,” he says. “But we're not as certain as we once were that human actions could not be causing changes.”

Robert M. White, head weatherman for the United States government, agrees with Thomas but believes computers may soon give answers to these questions, which would otherwise require centuries of weather observations to determine.

The last billion years have seen at least four different ice ages, one of which — the Pleistocene — we are still experiencing. Ice covered North America as far south as the Missouri River only eleven thousand years ago, barely yesterday afternoon as geologists measure time. Since then, the climate has grown almost steadily warmer. The great glaciers have retreated northward. Instead of one immense, continent-wide ice mass, there are now only small, scattered glaciers in the Rockies, larger ones on Baffin Island and the largest of all smothering Greenland.

There have been several interruptions in this heat wave, however. From 1300 A.D. till about the middle of the last century, for instance, there was a cooler bite to the air. Water temperatures near Iceland dropped so low that cod deserted its shores. Japanese who for a thousand years had reckoned spring as starting the day the cherry trees blossomed noted with dismay that this happy event was occurring later each year. The year 1816 was remembered in the northern United States and parts of Quebec and Ontario as r“the year without a summer.” Frost

appeared in every summer month, and the rain was so cold and so incessant that many crops didn't mature. The results were hardship and near-starvation for inhabitants of these areas.

The first regular weather observations in Canada began in 1839 in Toronto. Records since then show that average winter temperatures in the city

rose about three degrees between 1850 and 1950. During the latter part of this period an increase in the rate of warming was also noted by weathermen in cities as far apart as Vancouver, which claimed an average winter rise of almost one degree over about fifty years, and Montreal, whose average winter temperature rose a signifi-

cant three degrees in only eighty years.

But far more tangible signs indicate the trend. Between 1900 and 1935 the mean January temperature of Dawson City. Yukon, rose a startling ten degrees. (Oddly, however, it is now almost back to the turn-of-century low.) At Point Barrow. Alaska, residents were astonished to find the

harbor thawing earlier and freezing later, giving them today a shipping season of ten weeks instead of six. During the late 1940s, bird watchers in Toronto noticed that Cardinals, which dote on warm weather, had become permanent residents of the city.

Then in 1956 tuna dramatically appeared in great numbers in Trinity Bay, Nfld., more than six hundred miles north of Wedgeport, NS, home port for the famed International Tuna Derby. One extraordinary facet of their appearance — which puzzles marine biologists but has helped Newfoundlanders to catch world - record tuna in five of the nine years since then — is that anglers trolling in relatively small Trinity Bay rarely catch tuna under three hundred pounds.

“They look like fleets of submarines swishing by just beneath your puny little boat,” marvels Howie Meeker, former Toronto Maple Leaf hockey star who now lives in St. John’s. “They scare hell out of you.”

The possible causes and effects of this warming trend are intriguing subjects for speculation, particularly for Canadians. Science’s most popular theory about the cause is that the sun, our sole source of heat, is a variable star whose own output of warmth continues to fluctuate. Until 1957 and the first satellite, there was no practical way of measuring the sun’s heat without having the earth’s stored heat interfere with the results. Now such a measurement can be made, but it will be some time before enough data can be obtained to indicate whether the sun’s heat does fluctuate enough to affect the earth’s temperature.

The effects of new warmth could be startling. On the one hand it could encourage the northward march of man, animals, plants, fish and birds, opening great new areas to the concentrated populating that now makes, say, southern Ontario such a boom region. On the other hand it could mean the virtual end of civilization. For, as the late British climatologist C. E. P. Brooks has calculated, a worldwide rise of only two degrees in the annual temperature would melt enough ice to flood most of the world’s coastal cities.

Two eminent U.S. scientists, geologist William L. Donn and oceanographer Maurice Ewing, take Brooks’s deductions one step further. They believe the melting of Arctic ice would, ironically, precipitate a new ice age over North America. Their reasoning goes like this: The glaciers did not spread south from the pole as is generally assumed. They began one dreary winter when more snow fell than melted and continued till snow was falling all year round. The deepest snow was around Hudson Bay, in the direct path of the northerly winds blowing from the Arctic Ocean, which must have been open water to give up so much moisture to the winds.

“Therefore,” says Donn, “the rapidly thinning six feet of ice over the Arctic Ocean is all that’s saving us from another ice age.”

Oceanographer Ewing confirmed this theory by applying evidence found in the ocean bed that eleven thousand years ago an abrupt change occurred in Atlantic marine life, from coldwater to warm-water organisms. The reason, he believes, was that so much water had evaporated from the Arctic

Ocean that the ocean sank below a land bridge connecting Iceland and Greenland. Cut off from warmer Atlantic water, the Arctic Ocean froze and, in turn, cut off the wind’s supply of snow. The sun did the rest.

Greenland Eskimos now take big catches of cod where only fifty years ago cod stayed five hundred miles south of the island. This means that warmer Atlantic water is again moving north, hastening the melting of the ice crust. Will Donn's predictions of a new ice age soon become reality?

It may be a hundred years till this bleak prospect materializes, but we have enough to worry about till then. What, for example, could be causing the fantastic drought over the northeastern United States and the Maritimes, now in its fifth consecutive year? How much longer will this change continue — till the whole area is a desert?

Minus 2 past “disaster”

So dry is most of New York. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware that eastern U.S. weathermen had to adopt the drought index devised by their western colleagues to measure the condition. Under this new system, which is based on the rainfall needed in any area, rather than on the actual rainfall, a figure of Minus 4 is considered “economic disaster.” In October the area between Albany and New York City hit the incredible low of Minus 6. Even parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had readings of Minus 2.

As TV weathermen are so fond of demonstrating on their glass chalkboards, North America’s main weather pattern is circular, unique to itself but influenced by worldwide wind systems. Under normal conditions a broad cold Arctic air mass is always meeting

(somewhere near the Great Lakes) a dry Pacific wind and a warm, moist mass moving up the east coast from the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the east-west rotation of the earth, the whole mass swings east and eventually north, to repeat the cycle.

As it turns east, the warm moist gulf air rises, cools, and is forced to drop its moisture as snow or rain. Until recently, this snow or rain fell over land as often as over water. Lately most of it has been falling over the Atlantic, anywhere from one hundred to five hundred miles northeast of such thirsty spots as Philadelphia, New York and Halifax.

Sydney, NS, is just on the western edge of this new pattern and thus receives more rain and snow than usual. So is Gander, Nfld., which recorded 248 inches of snow in 1964-65, almost double its normal 127 inches; and Goose Bay, Labrador, got 219 inches instead of the usual 158.

“I almost wept to see ail that lovely snow piled house-high around Gander,” says John Clifford, operator of the ski lifts at Camp Fortune, near Ottawa. “The Newfoundlanders hated it, this stuff which I was spending a fortune to make artificially back home.” Clifford’s brother Harvey, who manages Mount Snow resort in Vermont, lost almost a million dollars in gross income last year through lack of snow.

But there are some indications that the long drought may be ending. For some time a huge expanse of water from the Carolinas to Nova Scotia, between the coast and the Gulf Stream, has been eight to ten degrees below normal. This “cool pool,” with its attraction for air masses moving past it, could explain why rainstorms have been dumping their precious cargoes over water. Since it is now slowly

warming, the storms themselves may soon return to their normal precipitation patterns over land.

Meanwhile, a similarly huge area of the Pacific is also much warmer than normal. Climatologists can’t say whether the two ocean pools are related and helping reverse climates in the east and west.

“Less than twenty percent of the world is adequately covered by weather stations,” grumbles Prof. Jule Charney, of the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. “So it’s no wonder so much of the weather we get comes as a complete surprise.” Why there should be warm and cold pools, at all, in the two oceans is beyond current explanation.

U.S. weathermen also have to puzzle over the great increase noted in the number of tornadoes in the Middle West in the last decade; and why hurricanes, most of which used to head west across the Gulf of Mexico, now usually rip northward across Florida and the southern states. Only rarely — as with Hurricane Hazel — can winds still be classed as hurricanes (seventy-five miles per hour and up) by the time they reach Canada. Yet Britain had its first recorded hurricane in two hundred and fifty years in March 1962, and another this past September. This showed that shifts in wind patterns, from whatever cause, are not confined to North America.

Some of the hottest arguments between weather experts have arisen over temperature changes. Experts begin by agreeing there is at least one non-nuclear human activity that could be affecting the weather: the burning of plant-remains such as coal and oil. Burning these produces carbon dioxide and ozone, both of which, unlike oxygen, absorb solar radiation. A concentration of these gases in any area could certainly raise the temperature. But at this point, scientists start to disagree. Some U.S. physical chemists insist that the quantity of carbon dioxide in the air has risen by thirteen percent in the last century. By 2000 A.D., they claim, there will be enough to raise much of North America’s temperature by as much as six degrees. Some Canadian climatologists are skeptical. They say that since carbon dioxide dissolves readily in water, the presence of the oceans and the Great Lakes means that no build-up is possible.

What really vexes weathermen, however, is their inability to build a model to study climate under laboratory conditions as other scientists do in such “simple” fields as physics, histology, cybernetics. “The moment you reduce weather to a workable scale, you’re defeating your own purpose,” says Doug Holland, a specialist with the meteorology branch in Toronto. “For after all, weather should be, to coin a phrase, as big as all outdoors.”

When the computers take over, things of course will be different. Then, when you’ve got that big annual picnic to plan, you’ll just feed a machine with the basic data — the location and a choice of dates. One push of the button and the machine will look ahead several weeks and pick the ideal day — guaranteeing the balmy weather you need. Unless Mother Nature happens to decide at the last minute that snow would be nice in July, for a change. ★

“I was fairly certain,” says Tremblay, “the Assembly might be torn apart”


continued from pape 26

Tremblay explained to me over lunch at UN headquarters recently. “We shared the American hope that with sufficient pressure the Russians and the French might be persuaded to accept a negotiated settlement. We could see, too, the dangers inherent in a policy of pressure. The Soviet Union or France might walk out of the UN. So either way, whether the Americans won or lost, the UN would suffer.

“On the other hand Canada fully realized that failure to uphold Article 19 would cripple the UN’s capacity for collective action in maintaining peace.”

The issue crystallized last January, after a month of hard wrangling had forced the 1964 session to abandon normal business in order to avoid a showdown vote on Article 19. The total peace-keeping debt, aggravated by the Cyprus expenses, was up in the hundred - million - dollar region, and Tremblay thought he could detect a certain fatalism in the American attitude. They had explained themselves so often to so many people that they were impatient to have the problem settled before further delays weakened their position.

“The Americans seemed to think they could muster the necessary twothirds majority,” said Tremblay. “I wasn’t so sure. So many countries were scared of the repercussions from a showdown that most would probably abstain in a vote. In fact, I was fairly certain the assembly might well be torn apart, irrevocably divided, all for nothing.”

One night in late January a solitary light burned at Canadian headquarters high above New York’s Third Avenue. Tremblay, jacketless and chain-smoking as always when under stress, was, with the help of his assistants, composing one of the most important diplomatic telegrams of his career.

After ranging over the many moods and opinions of the UN delegations, Tremblay suggested to Ottawa a small but significant shift in Canadian policy. Canada, he said, might be able to manoeuvre effectively to halt the drift if it moved, ever so slightly, away from the hard line of the United States, toward the position that no attempt to invoke Article 19, by the Americans or anyone else, should be allowed to nullify the UN’s capacity for collective action in emergencies. In other words, the General Assembly couldn’t afford further delay in returning to normal business.

He advised, too, that as the broad mass of UN membership wanted to preserve the organization, the best way to avoid a disastrous confrontation would be to persuade the United States as well as the delinquents that neither side should count on decisive support in the assembly.

The substance of this telegram to Ottawa appears to have taken some weeks to filter through External Affairs to the Canadian cabinet. Paul Martin indicated that it eventually did when he stated publicly in June that it was Canadian policy to work for

business as usual at the United Nations.

This divergence from the tough U. S. approach was followed by similar softening of policy by the British and several European countries, proving that Tremblay’s assessment of the UN mood had been correct. The combined effect was to force the Americans to count assembly heads again, and reassess their chances of getting a two-thirds majority.

In February, a special committee consisting of thirty-three nations was formed to make an attempt at finding a solution before the assembly session began last September. Tremblay became acting chairman of this committee in August, when all members knew that time was running out and no solution was in sight.

The hard line — then shock

That was the stand-off position on Thursday, August 12, when Arthur Goldberg, newly appointed U. S. ambassador to the UN, flew into New York late in the evening to prepare for a speech he was due to make before the Committee of Thirty-Three on the following Monday. As he had asked for an opportunity to brief Western ambassadors in advance, a private meeting was arranged for Friday morning in a small committee room at UN headquarters.

Some fifteen diplomats attended, all hoping that the U. S. ambassador would reveal that Washington had changed course to avoid a collision. Goldberg lost no time in dispelling it. The United States, he said, intended to introduce a resolution calling on the assembly to invoke Article 19 as soon as the session opened. The principle of collective responsibility was too

fundamental to be ignored, abused or simply brushed under the carpet. Congress, he added, was adamantly opposed to approving the appropriation of large sums of money to meet UN expenses if the UN itself was prepared to allow debtor nations to get away with their delinquencies. If the assembly failed to support the U. S. stand on so crucial an issue, then Congressional leaders might become so disenchanted with the UN that the administration would be forced to accept a severe cutback in American contributions.

The shocked ambassadors, Tremblay among them, reacted strongly, one after the other rising to warn of the tragic consequences that might flow from so inflexible an attitude, and to point out that the main objective should be to persuade the delinquents to pay up, not to drive them out.

When the meeting ended, about noon, there was a general feeling that perhaps the Americans were so exasperated by the way the UN had evolved over the years that they might actually be just about ready to turn their backs on it.

Here is what happened over the next three days — according to scraps of information I have been able to piece together from various sources:

In the afternoon half a dozen ambassadors representing the United States’ closest allies met behind closed doors, with Tremblay in the chair. Everything that had been said in the morning for and against the U. S. position was compressed into a memorandum in which a few very private comments, which only close friends feel permitted to make, were added. And at about 6 p.m. Tremblay was

authorized to deliver it personally to Goldberg.

The Canadian ambassador stuffed this “piece of paper” — traditional diplomatic description of memoranda — into a pocket and drove through the heavy evening theatre traffic to U. S. headquarters to keep his hurriedly arranged meeting with Goldberg. Whatever went on between them, it had an immediate and dramatic effect. Tremblay returned to his own offices about an hour later, called Ottawa and his colleagues, saying in effect, “All we can do now is wait.”

He didn’t know then that after he left Goldberg, the U. S. ambassador had canceled his weekend appointments in New York, and later that night returned unexpectedly to Washington, armed with Tremblay's “piece of paper.”

Various versions of what happened have since seeped out into “The Glass House” and many delegations now believe that the “piece of paper” was exactly what the State Department needed to convince Congress that the bonds keeping the UN together were already under immense strain and would surely snap under further stress.

It is also widely accepted now that it was Congress, not the U. S. administration that had to be shown that support for the U. S. had drastically diminished, and that any attempt to invoke Article 19 would invite disastrous consequences, not only for the UN, but for American prestige around the world.

Goldberg flew back to New York on Sunday night. Next morning, Tremblay took his seat as acting chairman of the Committee of Thirty-Three, and called upon Goldberg to speak. The atmosphere was tense and expectant. The future of the UN was in the balance.

The United States, said Goldberg, had regretfully concluded that the General Assembly was not prepared to carry out the relevant provisions of the UN Charter or to uphold the principle of collective responsibility. The intransigence of a few member states, and their refusal to abide by the rule of law, had created the crisis. While the United States maintained that Article 19 was applicable, it recognized that the General Assembly was against its application. Since it was not in the interest of the world to have the General Assembly’s work immobilized, the United States would not frustrate this assembly opinion.

It was a graceful speech, not without its barbs. Tremblay and his group had won — and it is entirely probable that the U. S. administration was as thankful as anyone else that Goldberg had taken command in New York just in time to sound an American retreat.

Today, the immediate danger is over, but the causes of the crisis remain. Voluntary contributions are covering the UN’s day-to-day expenses, but there’s no indication that the delinquent nations intend paying up their arrears.

“We’ve got to find a proper financing formula for the future,” says Tremblay. “There are a number of proposals in the works. One of them may be the solution we are looking for.” ★