The beatification of Nelson Mandela by the world's press and politicians sits uneasily with me as with some others (see the piece by Simon Jenkins at the Guardian). All statesmen and leaders have their weaknesses, and sometimes it takes the distance of time to truly assess the greatness of someone like Nelson Mandela. South Africa today is riven by inequality, unemployment, social deprivation, corruption and crime. Mandela's new South Africa has economic apartheid, with large chunks of the nation's wealth in the hands of a few (mainly white) elites. The new South Africa has all the trappings of democracy, but, in effect, it is a one-party state with all the problems that this brings. The big challenge for South Africa is how it becomes a competitive democracy which spreads wealth around without destroying the businesses and corporations which produce, and will continue to produce, that wealth. Click here to read an op-ed at the New Yorker on Mandela's economic legacy.
The Berkeley Earth Project , an independent study of global warming, has found that the earth has become a degree warmer over the past half century. However, the statistical uncertainty surrounding pre-1920 estimates makes it very hard to say much about long-term trends - click here for graph . This is one of my concerns with the global warming debate - we simply don't have trustworthy long-run data which looks at temperature changes over the last millennium (or two). My second concern with the global warming debate is that it is very hard to prove any sort of casual link between global warming and human activity. The scientists may be able to show correlation between global warming and our production of carbon dioxides etc., but correlation is not causation. My third concern with the debate is that those who are sceptical or agnostic are stereotyped as flat-earthers or intellectually-challenged crackpots. This only stifles debate and the progress of science itself.