In Memoriam: Stephen Schneider

Dr. Stephen Schneider, one of the greatest minds of the science of climate change, has died at the age of 65. Schneider advised every presidential administration since Nixon, founded the journal Climatic Change, was a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and authored or co-authored over 450 scientific papers. He was also a unique voice, clearly expressing the threat of manmade global warming to the general public for over three decades. As he said in a 1979 appearance as a young scientist with an Eric-Bogosian mop of hair:

We’re insulting our global environment at a faster rate than we’re understanding it.

Watch it:

On September 2, 2005, as the Gulf Coast reeled from Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Schneider appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher:

Every time we try to talk about getting a tax on these emissions, we’re told it’s an interference in the free market, as if we should get our garbage collected for free.

Watch it:

In one of his last media appearances, the oft-smeared Dr. Schneider participated in a podcast with ClimateScienceWatch about his recent paper, “Expert Credibility in Climate Change,” co-authored with blogger Jim Prall, Jacob Harold, and lead author William Anderegg. A moon-faced Schneider vehemently explained that credible expertise is a life-and-death matter:

It really matters what your credentials are. If you have a heart arrhythmia, as I do, and I also have a cardiologist — and you also have an oncological problem, as I do, I’m not going to my cancer doc to ask him about my heart medicine and my cardiologist to ask about my chemo, I’m going to the experts. Who is an expert really matters. People with no expertise, their opinion frankly doesn’t matter much on complex issues, and in my opinion, shouldn’t even be quoted about complex details of science.

Watch it:

His most recent book, Science as a Contact Sport, is a delightful work reminiscent of Richard Feynman’s memoirs, full of amusing anecdotes and remarkable breakthroughs that reveal both a diamond-hard scientific mind and an effervescent joy for life.

I tried to catch him for an interview at the Copenhagen climate conference last December, but we couldn’t make our schedules mesh. Fortunately for myself and the rest of the human race, Dr. Schneider will live on through his great opus of work. Sadly, time is running out for us to honor his legacy by turning back the black tide of global warming.

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