Profile: The late and great Stephen Schneider
The scientific world has lost its leading advocate for climate change action. Dr Stephen Schneider emerged in the 1970s as one of the early supporters of the theory that man-made industrial gasses were damaging the ozone layer and leading to a slow but steady rise in the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere. “I’ve been on the ground, in the trenches, for my entire career,” Dr. Schneider wrote in his 2007 book, “Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate.” “I’m still at it, and the battle, while looking more winnable these days, is still not a done deal.” He passed away this week aged 65.
By T. Rees Shapiro in Washington Post
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Stephen H. Schneider, 65, an influential Stanford University climatologist who parlayed his expertise on the dangerous effects of greenhouse-gas emissions into a second career as a leader in the public dialogue — and debate — on climate change, died July 19 in London.
His wife, Stanford biologist Terry Root, wrote in an e-mail to colleagues that her husband had died after an apparent heart attack on an airplane en route to London from Stockholm.
Dr. Schneider wrote books and more than 400 articles on human-driven global warming and its wide-ranging effects, such as a recorded rise in ocean temperature and the increasing potency and frequency of hurricanes. He conducted research on the near-irreversible damage of greenhouse gases on the ozone layer and theorized how a nuclear war might affect the climate.
The founder and editor of the magazine Climatic Change, Dr. Schneider was part of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former vice president Al Gore for international research on global warming. He advised every president from Nixon to Obama.
“No one, and I mean no one, had a broader and deeper understanding of the climate issue than Stephen,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University. “More than anyone else, he helped shape the way the public and experts thought about this problem — from the basic physics of the problem, to the impact of human beings on nature’s ecosystems, to developing policy.”
One of Dr. Schneider’s strongest talents as a scientist was finding vivid ways of describing the harm of global warming. He often appeared on television as a climate expert, including the HBO program “Real Time With Bill Maher.”
He once told Maher’s viewers that humans were to blame for global warming because of our use of the atmosphere as a “sewer to dump our smokestack and our tailpipe waste.”
Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club Foundation, said Dr. Schneider “had the ability to connect the dots in a way that laypeople could understand.”
In the late 1970s, Dr. Schneider emerged as one of the early supporters of the theory that man-made industrial gasses were damaging the ozone layer and leading to a slow but steady rise in the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere.
His passionate views on the climate debate occasionally attracted vitriol from extremist groups. An FBI investigation recently found he was named on a neo-Nazi “death list,” and Dr. Schneider said he received hundreds of hate e-mails a day.
“What do I do? Learn to shoot a magnum? Wear a bulletproof jacket?” Dr. Schneider said. “I have now had extra alarms fitted at my home, and my address is unlisted. I get scared that we’re now in a new Weimar Republic where people are prepared to listen to what amounts to Hitlerian lies about climate scientists.”
Nonetheless, Dr. Schneider said he believed it was important for scientists to communicate with the public and spread their understanding of climate data and findings.
“If we do not do the due diligence of letting people understand the relative credibility of claimants of truth, then all we do is have a confused public who hears claim and counterclaim,” Dr. Schneider said in a recent interview with Climate Science Watch. “When somebody says ‘I don’t believe in global warming,’ I ask, ‘Do you believe in evidence? Do you believe in a preponderance of evidence?’ ”
Stephen Henry Schneider was born Feb. 11, 1945, in New York. He was a graduate of Columbia University, where he also received a doctorate in mechanical engineering and plasma physics in 1971.
He worked as a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., for more than 20 years before joining the Stanford faculty in the mid-1990s.
Besides his wife, a complete list of survivors could not be determined.
Despite the fact that a recent study found that 97 to 98 percent of climatologists believed in global warming, Dr. Schneider acknowledged that the debate in the forum of public opinion was more divisive.
“I’ve been on the ground, in the trenches, for my entire career,” Dr. Schneider wrote in his 2007 book, “Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate.” “I’m still at it, and the battle, while looking more winnable these days, is still not a done deal.”
ABC News (20 July 2010):
Nobel Prize-winning climate change researcher Stephen Schneider has died at the age of 65.
The Stanford University scientist worked on the international research panel on global warming that shared the 2007 Nobel Prize with former US vice-president Al Gore.
He spent 37 years studying the forces influencing the climate, including pioneering work on the effects of aerosols.
Dr Schneider was suffering from a rare cancer but died of a heart attack overnight on a flight between Stockholm and London.
He was a South Australian thinker-in-residence on climate change policy back in 2006.
SA Premier Mike Rann says Dr Schneider’s advice resulted in South Australia becoming one of the first places in the world to introduce greenhouse gas emission reduction legislation.
“Stephen Schneider was a terrific adviser, he was incredibly constructive,” he said.
“He wanted to make a difference in the world and he saw what we were doing here in South Australia as an important opportunity to demonstrate to other places around the world what we could do in terms of tackling climate change.”
Griffith University’s Professor Jean Palutikof says Dr Schneider was recently in Australia and he will be sadly missed.
“He cared that you understood what he was trying to tell you,” she said.
“I don’t think he cared whether you were the man who was collecting the garbage or whether you were the director of the institute he worked for.
“I don’t know of anyone who can begin to take his place.”
A dedication from Ken Hickson, Editor of abc carbon express:
Stephen Schneider was an impressive figure in anyone’s terms. He held the stage, captivated an audience and had cynical – even skeptical – journalists hanging on to his every word. I first met and talked with Stephen at the Greenhouse 2007 Conference in Sydney. He was, most importantly, the leading scientific advocate of action to deal with climate change.
As an “influential climatologist”, people took notice of Stephen. Political leaders and business leaders listened to what he had to say. Many took note and many, many more should now consider the legacy of this man, who has led the charge in the US and globally for action based on full scientific understanding of climate change.
He was more than anything admired by me (and others) for he believed it was important for scientists to communicate with the public and spread their understanding of climate data and findings. Stephen was quoted (and pictured) in my book “The ABC of Carbon” and has many times rated a significant mention in abc carbon express. The last time was a mere three weeks ago when he was profiled in advance of his visit to Australia where he had a number of speaking engagement.
I saw him at the Global Climate Change Adaptation Conference on the Gold Coast, where he was willingly sharing his views with journalists and delegates. I did comment to a friend at the time that I thought the normally upright and strident Stephen was appearing a little frail, supporting himself with a walking stick.
Stephen Schneider has graciously and generously shared his time and expertise, his wisdom and scientific knowledge, with the world. It is time now for all of us to treasure his contribution, not by burying it, but my making sure it is enshrined in the laws and policies for real action on climate change, now before it is too late.