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Remembering Stephen Schneider

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Prof. Stephen Schneider, one of the truly important voices in climate science of our time, has died.  For over three decades, he had been researching and speaking out on the need to sharply and quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Schneider served as a consultant to Federal Agencies and White House staff in the Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations…..

Schneider was the founder and editor of the journal Climatic Change and authored or co-authored over 450 scientific papers and other publications. He was a Coordinating Lead Author in Working Group II IPCC TAR and was engaged as a co-anchor of the Key Vulnerabilities Cross-Cutting Theme for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) at the time of his death.

Schneider managed this urgent message even while consistently focusing on the uncertainties inherent in the science — he understood that the uncertainties made the case stronger, not weaker, particularly since most of the uncertainty is on the high end of climate sensitivity and impacts.  And he managed this even while he battled and beat a rare cancer.”

UPDATE:  At RealClimate, Ben Santer has a long eulogy, which I excerpts

Today the world lost a great man. Professor Stephen Schneider – a climate scientist at Stanford University – passed away while on travel in the United Kingdom.

Stephen Schneider did more than any other individual on the planet to help us realize that human actions have led to global-scale changes in Earth’s climate. Steve was instrumental in focusing scientific, political, and public attention on one of the major challenges facing humanity – the problem of human-caused climate change.

Some climate scientists have exceptional talents in pure research. They love to figure out the inner workings of the climate system. Others have strengths in communicating complex scientific issues to non-specialists. It is rare to find scientists who combine these talents.

Steve Schneider was just such a man….

We honor the memory of Steve Schneider by continuing to fight for the things he fought for – by continuing to seek clear understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change. We honor Steve by recognizing that communication is a vital part of our job. We honor Steve by taking the time to explain our research findings in plain English. By telling others what we do, why we do it, and why they should care about it. We honor Steve by raising our voices, and by speaking out when powerful “forces of unreason” seek to misrepresent our science. We honor Steve Schneider by caring about the strange and beautiful planet on which we live, by protecting its climate, and by ensuring that our policymakers do not fall asleep at the wheel.

I’m in SF today with my family and speaking tonight at the Commonwealth Club, so I don’t have a lot of time to blog now, but will certainly be remembering him tonight in my remarks and seeking out those who knew him far better for comments.  Please add your remembrances below.

For now, let me just reprint a recent interview he gave –  it typifies his worldview perfectly:

Last month I wrote about the new study that reaffirmed the broad scientific understanding of climate change and questioned the media’s reliance on a tiny group of less-credibile scientists for “balance.” The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study “Expert credibility in climate change,” was predictably attacked and misrepresented by the disinformers as part of their ongoing efforts to promote their fringe anti-science views.

To set the record straight, ClimateScienceWatch.org talked with one of the article’s coauthors, Stanford University Prof. Stephen Schneider.  The video and transcript of the interview are below.  First, let me repost the study’s main conclusion:

Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that 1) 97-98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and 2) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.

Here is the CSW interview with Stephen H. Schneider, Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Professor, Department of Biology, and Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, at Stanford University.

Note:  The transcript “contains more extended text from the interview:

CSW: The article on climate science expert credibility that you co-authored, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – what prompted this study?

Schneider: There are so many claims out there from all kinds of interests, about how climate change is ‘the end of the world,’ or ‘good for you,’ and people – policymakers and media – are understandably confused. Part of the problem is that over time the media has fired so many of its specialists that there aren’t a lot of people left to sort out the relative credibility of all the claims. So, since a lot of those people who deny that humans have any impact on climate are claiming that they have scientific expertise, we said let’s just put it to a test.

There’s a very well-known and widely used independent index, which is: how many papers have you published and how many times have people cited them in the scientific literature? Those people who chose to put themselves on lists and petitions denying that there was a human impact on climate, let’s see how many papers they’ve published, and how many citations they have. Those people associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), let’s check them and see if there’s a difference.

CSW: In terms of how you defined the groups in the study, you have one category that you refer to as “convinced by the evidence” – convinced by the evidence for anthropogenic climate change. The other group is the “unconvinced by the evidence.” Are you defining them by scientific perspective, or are you defining them by policy positions?

Schneider: It’s a bit controversial how you define anyone in categories like “convinced” and “unconvinced” since none of us – I hope – are 100% convinced of anything, or 100% unconvinced, but we can have a vast preponderance of evidence. There are lists where groups have organized themselves into pro, basically, and con human impacts on climate. Most of the ‘pros’ work on the IPCC, mainstream science, and most of the ‘cons’ do not. Only two or three are in common. They wrote petitions saying they didn’t think there was much likelihood of anthropogenic change, and we put them in the unconvinced category. That is, they put themselves in the unconvinced category. As far as those who spent much of their life working at IPCC, there’s a very high probability they are convinced this problem is real or they wouldn’t be putting in all this time. The bottom line is that we let people self-define and then we let the numbers fall where they were, in terms of the relative credibility of each of those groups – and the credibility was vastly different. Not surprisingly, those people who do work daily in climate science have a much, much higher citation count and more published papers than those who just claim it isn’t true but really, for the most part, are not prime workers in climate change.

CSW: Well then, what about the charge that the study, in effect, is creating a ‘blacklist’ of certain scientists? It’s saying that these are the skeptics, the unconvinced by the evidence, but they don’t have any credibility and so you shouldn’t pay any attention to them.

Schneider: Well it’s laughable that it’s a blacklist. A blacklist is what somebody like Joe McCarthy did back in the 50′s, or Senator Inhofe is doing now, when we all know it’s the senator who is deliberately distorting. How could we be doing a blacklist when we’re using the names that they gave? All we did was test it. The fact that they don’t publish very much is not our issue. This is a fact check.

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’s an expert really matters. People with no expertise, their opinion frankly does not matter on complex issues. And in my opinion shouldn’t even be quoted when we’re talking about the details of the science.

When we’re talking about what to do about it, then every citizen’s opinion is just as important as anybody else’s, and everybody should be quoted. But not about how many degrees of warming there is – that takes a lot of knowledge, to be able to know what you’re talking about. That knowledge is very well reflected in the counts of the number of times people’s scientific papers have been cited by their colleagues. That’s where the mainstream climate scientists have a major advantage over those who are unconvinced. We feel that’s a robust conclusion, that most of the claimants that there’s no anthropogenic climate change are very weak scientists – by and large – and most of their comments are really not very scientifically credible.

CSW: I believe Judith Curry argued that, on your various lists, under “convinced of the evidence” you were including people who are ecologists and biologists, and who aren’t really experts in the climate change detection and attribution research. So that somehow skews your notion of how to sort people out in terms of credibility. What’s your response to that?

Schneider: Well, there are two responses. First of all, there are a couple dozen people in the world that work in ecology – that includes people like Terry Root, Camille Parmesan, and myself, among others – who actually look at the bloom dates of roses in your grandmother’s back yard and when birds come back. We do detection and attribution studies. Those people are in the IPCC and they are legitimate experts and they have published research in Science and Nature and PNAS and places like that. There was an entire chapter on it in [IPCC] Working Group II and those people, again, like Cynthia Rosenzweig, were included in the IPCC database.

But she does have a point, that not everyone in IPCC is an expert in detection and attribution. That’s certainly true. But when she said that the IPCC group that we used in our PNAS study should be cut down to something like 20% of the original. That’s hundreds of people, that’s still quite a lot of people. If you look at the “unconvinced of evidence” group, virtually nobody in it has ever published a paper on detection and attribution. So, by Judy’s own logic, that means it’s virtually a null set. That means there’s almost nobody in the unconvinced category who has any expertise whatsoever in detection and attribution. So, if you take her logic, and apply it symmetrically to the “convinced” and “unconvinced” you narrow the “convinced” group down to a smaller but still clear and robust population and the “unconvinced” has virtually no expertise, and their opinion becomes completely irrelevant.

CSW: What about the argument that some of the people critical of the study have made, that there’s something wrong with the metric of counting numbers of publications and counting how often your work is cited by other scientists. Some people will say that just the number of your publications doesn’t necessarily tell what the quality of your science is, and of course people of similar viewpoints will cite each other, or some articles have 10 or 12 authors and that racks up a lot of totals for some people, so using the publication and citation metrics doesn’t necessarily represent a scientifically correct perspective. Rather, it’s an elitist appeal to authority claiming that one group is more credible on the basis of these questionable metrics.

Schneider: Well, first of all, there’s no perfect metric. What we’re trying to do is find out, in the spirit of risk management, where is the preponderance of evidence? Where is the preponderance of skill? We didn’t make [these metrics] up, which is the number of papers people publish and the number of times colleagues cite them. There is a very widespread belief, built on evidence, that those people with stronger publication records, getting themselves published many more times in peer reviewed literature – which is not easy – and the number of times you’re cited, the number of times other people are quoting you, is a very good metric as to whether you just published a meaningless paper about something irrelevant, or whether that paper has real clout.

The only way you can get citation and not have quality is if you have made a big error. In fact, one of the things we did to try to eliminate that is we didn’t just look at the average number of cites, we looked at the top four or five papers each person published, and then we tried to check and see whether one of them was massively cited. We’d cut that out, saying either that was their one brilliant shining star or they made so many mistakes that everybody caught them. As it turns out it made almost no difference in the statistics. We feel that these statistics are pretty robust in giving you the strong preponderance of evidence that those people who publish more and have more citations are much more scientifically credible.

About the ‘elitist’ part: Scientists are really stuck. It’s exactly the same thing in medicine, it’s the same thing with pilot’s licenses and driver’s licenses: We don’t let just anyone go out there and make any claim that they’re an expert, do anything they want, without checking their credibility. Is it elitist to license pilots and doctors? Is it elitist to have pilots tested every year by the FAA to make sure that their skills are maintained? Is it elitist to have board certification on specialities in various health professions? I don’t think so. I think it’s the way we have safety. We have an FDA, which analyzes food and drugs.

We’re talking about planetary life support. People who are special interests in making money in the fossil fuel industry, who are ideologues, who are so deeply opposed to government regulation or international agreements, will just make any wild claim to support their ideology or special interest. They’ll find some hired gun PhD, or they’ll pick weak scientists for the most part – and should they really be afforded as much credibility? Can you tell me that a hundred institutions around the world, that have been working for 40 years, that have had dozens and dozens of carefully reviewed assessments, are somehow no more credible – even if they’re more elitist – than petroleum geologists funded by an oil company? They’re as knowledgeable about climate science as I would be about how to fix the leak in the Deepwatergate problem. I mean, they’re really not experts, and it really does matter what people know. 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 counter-claim.

That’s why there’s a National Academy of Sciences: it has to sort out the relative credibility of claims. Why is there an IPCC? Because the average person is not trained in what cloud feedback is, nor is the average geologist, just as the average climate scientist is not trained in how to find oil! So, let’s stay where we have our expertise. Science is a meritocracy. You have to have evidence. 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?”

CSW: What about the charge that there is a sort of commingling of science expertise with policy prescription here, in that, to say “convinced by the evidence for anthropogenic climate change,” that takes in most of the science community but it would also incorporate people who have a range of views on what kind of a climate policy would be desirable. There may be people who accept anthropogenic climate change but don’t support legislation for a strong mitigation policy. Or don’t support strong government regulation to limit greenhouse gases. Does it seem to you that real credible expertise in climate science points in the direction of a particular type of policy prescription, that we need a strong mitigation policy? Can you disconnect the two – and should we?

Schneider: I think it’s very difficult to disentangle them, without looking up every statement everyone has ever made. But most of people that signed the petitions saying they do not believe anthropogenic global warming is very likely, and they’re not convinced, are also making very strong statements that we shouldn’t have climate policy. Actually, very often people who say they aren’t convinced by the climate science are saying that simply because they do not want regulations, because they are anti-regulation ideologues, or special interest in the fossil fuel industry, or have a world view about private rights being more important than collective protection. Now, we aren’t going to be able to specifically separate them one by one unless you can find petitions that separate them – and those petitions don’t exist. But there’s a very, very high correlation between people who are convinced that there’s anthropogenic climate change and their argument that something should be done to slow it down to protect the planetary life support system. And there’s a very very high correlation between those who are unconvinced and saying “why should we have climate policy if we aren’t even convinced this is going on?” So, I think our conclusions are quite robust, though I have no doubt there could be 10 or 20% exceptions.

We have a database of over 1,000 people. Only a small number of them are going to fit into those ambiguous categories, and therefore do almost nothing to the statistics. So these are nitpicks, designed to discredit the overall preponderance of evidence we found. So while we feel that it is not a perfect measure, it’s a very close fit to the basic preponderance of thinking of the convinced and unconvinced. And if they don’t believe that, let them do their own study.

They also make a claim, which we haven’t discussed yet, that the reason the mainstream scientists have more papers and citations is because the “unconvinced” scientists have been systematically blocked by the peer review system, which is a cabal of government-funded scientists who are trying to eliminate the opinion of the contrarians. Now, this is pure assertion. They have absolutely no data. Have they ever shown us how many papers they’ve submitted, relative to the others?

I edit a journal called Climatic Change and I can tell you that the number of submissions I get from people with completely unconventional views is trivial, a tiny fraction of the hundreds and hundreds of submissions where people are not convinced of every detail, but they’re convinced the problem is real enough that it has to be studied and looked at and we have to take a look at the implications. So there are very few of them that are submitting. Now, they could come back and say, well that’s because we know that we’ll never get through the peer review process. Now they’re imputing that we’re some dishonest community who’s not going to give them a fair shake. When I get those papers, I often publish them, but I publish them with editorials that have opposite points of view. Just as, if I get a new radical idea in saying that climate change is going to be worse than the mainstream now thinks, I’ll probably publish it in Climatic Change, but then I’ll get an editorial from someone who is a little more conservative.

So they make this assertion that they’re being systematically excluded, because they have no other argument, they no have evidence for the assertion. Let them do a study. Let them show us the letters of all the papers that have been rejected. What we did is look at real evidence, independently collected: How many papers, and how many citations. That’s independent, and the only way you can claim it isn’t true is to invoke some massive conspiracy that is frankly laughable.

CSW: One critic, I believe it was Roy Spencer, called attention to your use of the term “tenets” -”the basic tenets of anthropogenic climate change,” or “the basic tenets of the IPCC.” He said that the term tenets belongs in religion, not science.

Schneider: Roy Spencer ought to know about religion since he publishes on creationist blog sites and I don’t, so I’ll give him expertise on religion that I don’t have. However, the word tenet has been used since I can remember being in 8th grade referring to a set of conditions and beliefs and criteria. So, in the sense that it’s criteria, or underlying aspects of a problem, I don’t have any difficulty using that word. I mean the tenets of those people who are unconvinced about climate change is that as long as there are loose ends anywhere, they don’t accept it.

The tenets on the side of the IPCC? Well it’s that greenhouse gases have increased. They trap heat. A significant fraction, almost all recent increases, are from human activities. And so forth. Each one of those is a component of the knowledge base. ‘Tenet’ is perfectly legitimate, it’s a standard word. The religion does not come from the side of the mostly convinced.

CSW: Last thoughts to leave us with?

Schneider: The main thing I want people to remember is that when we’re talking about expertise, we’re not talking about expertise in what to do about a problem. That is a social judgment and every person has the same right to their opinion as any person in climate. However, we are talking about the relative likelihood that there could be serious or even dangerous changes. Because before you even decide how you want to deploy resources as a hedge against a wide range of important social problems, you have to know how serious the problems are. All we’re trying to do in science is give the best estimate that honest people with a lot of evidence can, about the relative risks, so they can make wise decisions in their own lives and in who they elect about how we should deal with it.

If you have no idea about the risk, it’s very hard to rationally do risk management. And we feel that there many people deliberately muddying the risk waters because of a combination of ideology and special interest. We have every right to point out that they have weaker credentials in science than those who are convinced on the basis of the forty year record and longer that the scientific community has been successively examining, year after year after year. That is how we make decisions in medical, in health, or in business. We operate on the basis of preponderance of evidence. The same thing must be done for the planetary life support system. That’s why it’s so important to understand who’s credible.

“Expert Credibility in Climate Change” (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print, June 21, 2010)

Stephen Schneider’s website

Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate

Schneider was a crucial voice in climate science he will be greatly missed.

Revkin has his thoughts here.  Add yours below.

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67 Responses to Remembering Stephen Schneider

  1. Arthur Smith says:

    What I find truly sad is that some of Schneider’s last moments on this great planet were spent dealing with hate mail from so-called “skeptics”. What a tragic world we live in.

  2. Freddy Smith says:

    “[W]e have to offer up scary scenarios [about global warming and destruction of the environment], make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts one might have . . . . Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    Schneider described his attackers as “cowards” and said he had observed an “immediate, noticeable rise” in emails whenever climate scientists were attacked by prominent right-wing US commentators, such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

    “[The senders] are not courageous people,” said Schneider. “Where are they getting their information from? They just listen to assertions made on blogs and rightwing talkshows. It’s pathetic.”

    Schneider said the FBI had taken an interest earlier this year when his name appeared on a “death list” on a neo-Nazi website alongside other climate scientists with apparent Jewish ancestry. But, to date, no action has been taken.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/05/hate-mail-climategate

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this is another concerted campaign.

  4. Brian D says:

    …and we get to the Schneider quote mine just two comments in on a thread about his death. Stay classy, Freddy – and way to prove Arthur @#1′s point.

    Schneider was the first actual climatologist I saw speak on this issue, on a recommendation from a Lawrence Krauss talk. He will be missed.

  5. I knew him a quarter-century, and I never heard a word that wasn’t straight and straighforward from him. One of the giant figures who warned us in time to act–and who did his best to help make that action happen.

  6. Anne says:

    No words can adequately express the greatness of this man, his contributions to science and the way he could translate science for the rest of us. Steve and I were friends, colleagues, and, like so many, we had many shared experiences. I first met him in 1987 at a climate change conference, one of hundreds he was a part of. In the summer of 2008, we had lunch, at a spot across the street from the Stanford campus. He was animated and intense, as always. I asked if I could take his photo. Click: http://tinyurl.com/steveschneider

    We’ll miss you Stephen Schneider, more than you likely could have imagined.

  7. Chris Winter says:

    I’m sure scientists would be more honest in their public pronouncements, Freddy Smith, did not the propensity of some non-scientists to twist their words require them to make those words as twist-proof as possible — that is to say as simple and dramatic as possible.

  8. Rob Honeycutt says:

    This makes me very sad. I didn’t know him personally but I’ve watched him speak many times. He had a rare quality in his ability to understand both understand science and communicate it effectively. His intensity was infectious.

  9. Raul M. says:

    The list of actions that climate researchers helped
    to start in this new world must be long. And the list
    of improvements must be great. The study of our own
    actions as a people has led some to care more and to
    take action on their own through knowledge not just
    intuition.

  10. Prokaryotes says:

    The concerted internet campaign against climate science, from people like Freddy Smith.

    See 1st comment.

    http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2010/07/19/a-great-climate-scientist-passes-on/

  11. Chris Winter says:

    Regarding Dr. Schneider’s untimely death, I can do no better than to quote once again from Robert Browning:

    That low man seeks a little thing to do,
    Sees it and does it;
    This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
    Dies ere he knows it . . .

  12. d says:

    responding to Auther Smith
    I agree that it is very sad that Mr Schnieder had to deal with hate emails When you refer to “so called skeptics” that just makes me mad.

    [snipped misrepresentation]

  13. John Mason says:

    I am truly sorry. He seemed the definition of a gentleman, plus a careful, observant scientist.

    John

  14. Brian D says:

    d @#11: There’s nothing wrong with skepticism or asking questions, but when JAQ-offs co-opt the term “skeptic” for themselves (when in truth they are far from ‘skeptical’ and have frequently fallen into full-fledged denialism), the use of “so-called” is quite called for.

    For instance, right here in this thread: If Freddy had been properly skeptical, he would have checked the source of that quote (Discover magazine, 1988) and noticed that it was taken out of context and trimmed to make it look like Schneider was dishonest. However, by blindly reciting the mined quote, he forfeits any claim to the term “skeptic” – even while others who do exactly the same thing call themselves ‘skeptics’.

    See also Why real skeptics detest global warming deniers.

  15. Lou Grinzo says:

    d(11):

    Seriously? You didn’t read “so called skeptics” and realize that what was meant was “deniers who call themselves skeptics in an effort to sound respectable”? In virtually every example of that formulation I’ve seen used (or that I myself have used) that was the intended meaning.

    ———————————

    We’ve lost a great man, and I find it astonishing how quickly the comments here were corrupted by the petty politics and hair-trigger tempter tantrums of the deniers. I’d say you should be ashamed, but that would obviously be a waste of time. So instead I will address everyone else: Remember what happened here, as it reveals a lot about what Dr. Schneider was and all of us still are up against.

  16. Andrew Fynn says:

    Stephen remains as a great scientist, and a truly great example of what a good scientist is. He was not afraid, as many about him were, to stick with the science and the uncomfortable implications. He thought things should be expressed as the evidence suggested, without any bias or prejudice, one way or the other. A scientist can be passionate – passionate about getting closer to the truth, passionate about not compromising, passionate about education. That was Steve.

  17. John Mason says:

    Lou,

    With you 10000% (no typo intended).

    Cheers – John

  18. Ted Parson says:

    Steve did a better job of combining passionate advocacy for environmental protection with ruthlessly penetrating, critical, and honest examination of scientific knowledge and uncertainty — and thought more deeply about how to responsibly fill these two roles and manage the tension between them — then any scientist I’ve known. For this, and for the clarity and bluntness with which he spoke and wrote, he endured 30 years of snide, dishonest attacks such as have already appeared in these comments. It’s a shame we still have to read such drivel, but Steve’s contributions — to science, to science communication, and to advocacy and advice for sensible policy — blow these away like mosquitoes in a gale. Thank you Steve, it will be hard for anyone to fill your shoes.

  19. James Newberry says:

    Thanks to Dr. Stephen Schneider for a lifetime of devotion to the betterment of human civilization, against all odds. His was a life lived contributing to the foundations of life and hope.

  20. Chris Winter says:

    D,

    True skeptics are not “demonized and dehumanized.” Questioning the conventional wisdom is always respectable — provided it is honest questioning.

    However, the people Arthur Smith refers to as “so-called skeptics” are anything but honest questioners. They are not seekers of truth, scientific or otherwise. Rather, their agenda is to preserve a status quo they find comfortable at all costs. If you want an example, follow the link Prokaryotes provides in post #9 and read the very first comment, from someone who hides behind the handle “textee.”

  21. Jeff Huggins says:

    Over this past year, I’ve had several brief “hellos” and discussions with Professor Schneider (Stephen). He signed my “350″ hat! I saw him, and he was as energetic as ever, just a month or so ago. I’m surprised, shocked, and deeply saddened. Needless to say, he was a great and energetic “champion” of climate science and of the need for us to face and address the problem. He was a scientist AND a deeply concerned human, and he was doing more than his part to try to get us on a better path.

    His energy and commitment should be a great and inspirational example to all scientists and, indeed, all of us.

    I’m sad and surprised. Shocked. What we need is ten thousand people like him, and now we have one less.

    He was also an honest and accurate and passionate critic of the media’s coverage of climate change. I’ve heard him share those thoughts in public and, also, directly to me in one-to-one discussion, with his eyes ten inches from mine, looking right into mine. He had strong, and valid, feelings about the media problem.

    If there are two things we can do in his honor — or three or four or whatever the number — they would certainly include understanding climate science and embracing it, facing the problem, getting active, adopting effective solutions, and (in order to do all this) pushing the media to improve, a lot.

    I salute you, Stephen. Good job!

    Jeff

  22. toby says:

    I am reading his last book “Science as a Contact Sport”.

    A great scientist and distinguished gentleman.

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    30 years ago, in 1979, Dr Stephen Schneider
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4XUAM8A9bo&feature=related

  24. Calla R. Ostrander says:

    Stephen had a built in assumption that if you were talking to him, or he was talking to you, you were both intelligent, resonable, kind people who had, at least, good commen sense and a sense humor. Would that we were all so endowed when faced with skeptics, the mis educated, or the hot air that surrounds the issue of climate. Stephen you are missed already.

  25. Will Koroluk says:

    Lou (#13)

    Excellent post!

  26. Deb says:

    Steve was not only a great scientist, but a brilliant bridge between the worlds of science and policy.
    A skill in short supply in a time when it is needed more than ever.
    Pax vobiscum Steve.

  27. I’d like to add to Chris Winters’ post #19 using a personal anecdote. Steve and I were on a qualifying exam committee in late May of this year, and we were talking about one of our colleagues at another institution who generally takes a very conventional economics approach to the topic of climate solutions. Steve argued with him over several decades about various topics. Sometimes they agreed, sometimes they agreed to disagree. But he said that if he had the better argument, his colleague changed his mind and the issue never came up again. This is honest argumentation in the best tradition of intellectual discourse.

    This is in marked contrast to the actions of the various “deniers” who infest this and many other climate related blog sites. Every complaint they have, every issue they raise, and every point they make have already been debunked in the peer reviewed literature–every single one (see http://www.skepticalscience.com and http://www.realclimate.org/ ). Unfortunately, they keep bringing the same stuff up, over and over and over again. It’s a terrible waste of time, and it’s clear that the deniers have no interest in honest argumentation, it’s all about throwing s*#t at the wall in hopes that some will stick. This is a time honored tactic, but the world doesn’t have time for this, and these people should be ashamed of themselves.

    Steve brought all of his fierce intelligence and warm humanity to this fight, and it’s up to us to carry on his good and careful work. He was also my friend, and I will miss him greatly.

  28. Casey says:

    I wonder if Prof. Schneider ever used the term “denier”. Somehow, I doubt it.

    [JR: He tended to use 'contrarian'.]

  29. Prokaryotes says:

    Stephen Schneider on Climate Tipping Points
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDSWpJeQ6Ns&feature=related

  30. I interviewed Stephen Schneider for an article years ago when he was the most prominent and energetic voice on the climate crisis. Others became more prominent from time to time but he was always there. I hope those who had consistent contact with him were able to absorb some of the hard-won wisdom and experience of his long and persistent struggle to not only advance the science but to get America to pay attention and do something.

  31. Prokaryotes says:

    Climate Change Scientist Dr. Stephen Schneider on the State of Our Planet
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGYNtG-JjZ8

  32. Rob Honeycutt says:

    If you haven’t seen this yet, Peter Sinclair has posted a short interview with Stephen from 1979.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610

  33. Prokaryotes says:

    Part 2 of above video, watch in 480 pixel.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YG3JxCG2j1A

  34. Prokaryotes says:

    Prof. Stephen Schneider – “We lose natures library of alexandria with climate change.”

  35. Steve Wicke says:

    I remember I was living in Colorado a year after I graduated college and I bought a book called The Genesis Strategy by Stephen Schneider. I was captivated by his explaination of the history of Earth’s climate. I was hooked. I have been following the climate crisis for the last 35 years. I am sadden to hear about his death. I am also sadden to see climatology turned into tabloid fodder. I grew up on science and now it’s like it does not even exist. While I understand the basics of climate science, I am concerned that by not taking action on this crisis the future does not look to good.

  36. Deborah Stark says:

    Re: Anne – Post #5

    Anne, what a beautiful, evocative photo of Stephen Schneider. Thank you so much for sharing it here.

    Still reading. Back later. I just now learned of this news…

  37. Gord says:

    We here at the Project learned much from Dr. Stephen Schneider. We didn’t know about his medical problems.

    Thank-you Sir, for your efforts on our behalf.

    Susan and Gord

  38. mike roddy says:

    Count me as one of those who was inspired by this great man. His intensity, genius, and ability to express himself were rare and transformative.

    Schneider changed me, after our talk in 2007. My work is a very pale shadow of his, but I felt the man’s presence.

    Just this morning the rabble on WUWT attacked him. They seemed to hate him the most, since he was obviously a lot smarter than they were, and looked the part, too. It never seemed to faze Steve- he remained relentless and concise in his public atatements.

    Let’s express our grief by heading back to the fight, drawing on his example.

  39. David says:

    The world lost a great man and scientist today. Hopefully, the world takes heed of his message more so than they did during his lifetime.

    May he rest in peace, knowing that the work he did on earth was truly invaluable.

  40. Prokaryotes says:

    2008 – UO Today Show #375 Stephen Schneider
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH7Cqez6cVQ&feature=related

  41. Sophia Sanders says:

    He is a quitter fer sure.
    Very sad day for his family.

  42. Rueben Salerno says:

    I remember him for

    [snipped falsehood]

  43. Prokaryotes says:

    Projecting Future Climate Change, with Steve Schneider
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMNmTa0V87k

  44. Rueben Salerno says:

    Schneider realised that something drastic should be done. He has signed his own petitions, argued (quite wrongly) that climate change activists are in an unfair fight against big money interests (wrongly because climate activists receive hundreds of dollars in support for every one that their opponents get–Schneider’s own Stanford University received $100 million from Exxon to study the environment, something Schneider never discusses), and worrying about what might happen if the Republicans take over the House of Representatives this November.
    http://www.examiner.com/x-9111-Environmental-Policy-Examiner~y2010m6d24-Global-warmings-Stephen-Schneider-The-Light-That-Failed

    That is a lot of money from Big Oil. Schneider was a mechanical engineer.

  45. catman306 says:

    Maybe Big Oil and Big Coal will sponsor a Stephen H. Schneider award for outstanding work done by real climate scientists that furthers our understanding of anthropogenic greenhouse gases and their effects on global climate…

    Maybe someday Fossil Fuel interests will realize that they can make even more money by designing and promoting sustainable fuels like wind and solar and thus build our civilization instead of destroying our planet..

  46. Prokaryotes says:

    Stephen Schneider, one of the foremost experts on climate change, has died. Michele Norris talks to John Holdren, science adviser to President Obama. Holdren was a friend and colleague to Schneider for almost 40 years, working with him to educate the public about climate change.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128626833

  47. Janice Friendswood says:

    Where will he spend eternity?

  48. llewelly says:

    Where will he spend eternity?

    Being cited in climate science papers.

  49. djrabbit says:

    Well, crap. Science and humanity have lost a great contributor and communicator. Unlike some others on this thread, I never had the chance to meet him, but I fell like I knew him just a little bit from his intimate writing in “Science as a Contact Sport” (recommended under any circumstances).

  50. Eve says:

    I never met Professor Schneider but I am indebted to him and mourn his loss.

  51. caerbannog says:


    Janice Friendswood says:
    July 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Where will he spend eternity?

    “Heaven for the weather, hell for the company.” –Mark Twain

  52. mauri pelto says:

    Thank you Stephen for a life well led and the leadership you provided to many others. Stephen Schneider was one of the main speakers at a 1983 conference at Northwestern University, that convinced me that greenhouse warming would be real and that being a scientist monitoring the impact of this on glaciers would be my pursuit.

  53. Nancy says:

    How tragic. The good ones leave us too soon.

  54. Arne Perschel says:

    Please, can some moderator block the hateful comments? It’s gross.
    There are certain borders you just don’t cross. Throwing mud at a human being, less than a day after his death is not done. (It doesn’t surprise me but still, it hurts.)
    On the one hand, these comments aren’t going to convince anyone. I don’t think there will be many doubting, uninformed, curious citizens reading this post, anyway. Those who read this are all engaged and informed about climate issues, on one side or the other.
    On the other hand, the comments illustrate what Schneider’s work was about and why we should continue it.
    In my opinion, the first one weighs more, at least for today.
    Let’s just all give it a rest for a brief moment and share sadness with his family, whether we be friends or enemies.


    I want to send my condoleances to his family. Does anyone know how?

    I’m 25 and am deeply grateful for what this man has done for me. And I feel equally sad and orphaned. I’ve never felt this sad about the death of a person I’d never met.
    I will try my best to follow his example.
    I can assure you, Steve, you will certainly not be forgotten during my lifetime.

  55. Marion Delgado says:

    Since Stephen Schneider became kind of a poster boy on this issue, it’s always worthwhile to point out what the balance between honesty and effectiveness is. Those of us with a reputation for “telling someone how to make a watch when they ask what time it is” often feel it’s a little dishonest not to tell someone every nuance of a complex situation. That’s ineffective in a soundbite culture. The recent “xkcd” cartoon on the media asking “what’s the worst-case scenario” and being told “this is the worst-case scenario” but their model demands drama, also applies.

    I don’t think we’ve gained much by science being on the defensive by default – the right balance was struck with CFC ozone depletion. We didn’t have to tell people about chemical equilibrium in cold conditions, halogen chemistry, etc. Just that CFCs were creating long-lasting catalysts that were dissolving ozone.

  56. A tribute to Professor Stephen H. Schneider of Stanford University…….thanks for speaking out so loudly and clearly, Steve. You will be missed.

    It appears to me that we are beginning to wrap our heads around the formidable predicament before all of us, thanks to great scientists like Steve Schneider. All of us share with him, I suppose, a passion for the study of the human condition, with particular attention paid to the colossal human-induced global predicament the human community faces in our time.

    Somehow we have to keep talking about this human-driven predicament, even if it happens to threaten leaders with vested interests in existing patterns of behavior. There is no other way forward that makes any sense to me.

    Human overpopulation of Earth is the number one problem, the proverbial “mother” of problems before the human family. It is so huge that all other global challenges, when taken together, do not present us with kind of colossal threat which is posed to us by the projected unbridled growth of absolute global human population numbers fully anticipated in the next four decades. There are many ways absolute global human population numbers could be dramatically reduced, either by human action or by natural occurrence. But if we have learned nothing about the predicament we are in now, others who come after us will likely make the very same errors that bring us now to this point in human history and space-time. Just now, I am reminded of Nietzche’s idea of the “eternal recurrence”. If we choose to willfully ignore scientific evidence, reason and common sense regarding human population dynamics and human overpopulation in order to satisfy the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe among us who organize and manage the existing order of “life as we know it” for their own benefit primarily, then surely the colossal mistakes of the present will occur in the future, I suppose, over and over and over again. On the other hand, if top rank scientists with appropriate expertise, who have remained electively mute, speak truth to the powerful, and thereby fulfill their responsibilities to humanity and duties to science, then a chance exists for making necessary changes in the behavioral repertoire of human species leading us away from what can be seen now as unsustainable behavior and toward alternative ways of living in the world. Rightsized, human-scale business enterprises and sustainable lifestyles could become the order of the day.

    There have got to be similarly situated, top rank scientists in our planetary home who are ready now, here, to stand with Professor Stephen H. Schneider and Professor Emeritus Gary L. Peters in acknowledging the distinctly human-forced predicament confronting the human community; in overcoming the suppression of scientific evidence in silence; and in ending the collusion “underpinning” the global gag rule on open discussions of human population dynamics. We need many experts with the highest degree of skill and knowledge regarding population dynamics to speak out loudly and clearly regarding whatsoever is true to you, as best you can see and articulate what could somehow be real.

  57. Peter Mizla says:

    I have recently become familiar with Dr.Schneider

    last week went to his web site; read and listened.

    I have just ‘entered’ Dr. Hansen’s book- I am still learning.

  58. caerbannog says:


    I don’t think we’ve gained much by science being on the defensive by default – the right balance was struck with CFC ozone depletion.

    In the CFC/ozone-depletion link were discovered in today’s political climate, Sherwood, Molina, and Crutzen would be getting mountains of vicious hate-mail, and they might even be asking for police protection.

    Scientists bear none of the responsibility for the current toxic atmosphere surrounding the issue of global-warming. Blaming them would be like blaming civil-rights workers for the lynchings, church-burnings, etc. in the South back in the 50′s and 60′s.

  59. John McCormick says:

    RE # 51

    Mauri, that is what Dr. Schneider did for many of us in our own way and with him reminding us how important it is whatever we are doing; teaching, telling, writing, researching and demanding an end to climate change.

    John McCormick

  60. Anna Haynes says:

    “How are we going to make democracy work if people don’t know what is going on?” – Schneider in May, on why substantive journalism matters.
    (link)

    I wanted to meet him last night.

  61. Jeff Huggins says:

    Back to the Necessary Task at Hand! (as Stephen Schneider probably would have wanted)

    I’d like to share some observations that include a discussion I had not long ago with Stephen, a bit about the Hoover Institution at Stanford, a recent comment from S. Fred Singer, a bit about ExxonMobil and one of its Board members, and the latest Fortune rankings of the largest companies in the world.

    Three of the four times I saw Stephen speak, or had brief discussions with him, were on the Stanford campus. The fourth was hearing him (as well as Jim Hansen, Joe Romm, Bob Weir, and etc.) at the Earth Day rally in Washington.

    The last time I talked to him (Stephen), not long ago, we briefly talked about the fact that Stanford, a great university with relevant scientists who are deeply concerned about climate change, also includes and houses a long-time member of ExxonMobil’s Board of Directors. I’ve been in a few excellent meetings at Stanford in which some leading scientists and other academics have struggled, with a great deal of concern, with the question of how to help society face and address climate change, along with our other major problems, even as the office of a Board member of ExxonMobil was only a short, and indeed pleasant, walk to a nearby part of the campus.

    Given an issue (climate change) of such immense importance to humankind, regarding which 97 percent of relevant scientists agree, including those from Stanford, is it really responsible – and wise – for Stanford to also be the happy home to an ExxonMobil Board member, for example? How do Stanford faculty feel about that? How do Stanford students feel about that? How does the university itself feel about that?

    Michael Boskin, a Professor of Economics and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford, has been a member of ExxonMobil’s Board of Directors for about 14 years, according to ExxonMobil. If my understanding is correct, that makes him the second-longest-serving member of ExxonMobil’s Board. No short-timer, he. Fourteen years is plenty of time to have tried, hard, to help lead ExxonMobil in directions that are more healthy and responsible to society and more consistent with what climate change science informs us that we ought to do, if we want to preserve a healthy and stable climate anyhow. But ExxonMobil isn’t pursuing those pathways. Why not, and what are the Board members doing about it?

    Under the circumstances, should Stanford (or the Stanford faculty, or the Stanford students) ask Professor Boskin to choose between retaining his roles at Stanford and continuing as an ExxonMobil Board member? ExxonMobil uses its relationships with Stanford to build credibility with the public by showing, or implying, that it is a responsible, scientific, wise, and humane company, and affiliated with the greatest universities. (Another Board member is from Harvard.) It seems to me that ExxonMobil is, in effect, buying or borrowing credibility from Stanford and Harvard, to the detriment of the public. Is ExxonMobil actually “more clever” than Stanford and Harvard on this matter of credibility? It seems so.

    Back to the story: In my brief discussion with him, Stephen expressed concern and frustration with the idea that an ExxonMobil Board member was at Stanford, just minutes away from where we were having the discussion. I can’t quote him directly, because I can’t remember precisely what he said, but he said, or implied, that either he and/or other faculty members had tried, more than once, to reach out to (either) Michael Boskin himself or to Hoover Institution leadership in order to express concerns about (either) their stance with respect to global warming or, perhaps, specifically with respect to ExxonMobil. Again, I can’t remember the details. Something had been tried, more than once, and had failed. That was the impression that Stephen’s comments gave to me.

    Over on Dot Earth, S. Fred Singer left a comment in remembrance of Stephen, and I found something in the comment interesting. (See Comment 60, from S. Fred Singer, in the Dot Earth thread having to do with Stephen’s passing.) Singer commented that the last time he saw Stephen was when he (Singer) gave a seminar talk at Hoover-Stanford, and Stephen came by to say hello. Can you imagine: A seminar talk at Hoover-Stanford, by Fred Singer! If only the Hoover folks had also invited Stephen, Joe Romm, Jim Hansen, and (the 97 percent of relevant scientists) to debate Singer, that would have been a great seminar to see. Perhaps they also should have invited Michael Boskin and Rex Tillerson.

    If my memory is correct (and also because I don’t want to leave the wrong impression, here), although Stephen was concerned and frustrated about the matter, it seemed to me that he wasn’t clear, in his own mind, about what Stanford and/or faculty ought to do in such situations. He had enough on his plate, focusing on climate science itself and also on the media problem. He probably didn’t have time to worry or think about the question of what a leading university ought to do in such cases. The Earth’s climate is a vitally important matter, and ExxonMobil is one of the world’s largest companies, and Stanford’s mission (presumably) has to do with serving the good of humankind, and doing so with wisdom and efficacy, and Michael Boskin has had fourteen years of opportunity to help lead ExxonMobil in more responsible directions. What should a responsible and credible university do? Stephen himself probably didn’t have time for that question. But there ARE people who SHOULD be thinking about it and who SHOULD make a judgment on the matter, one way or another, in a way that reflects the gravity of the matter, the particular issue of climate change, and their own best thinking and character. It’s a question for Stanford leadership, Stanford faculty, and Stanford students.

    I admire Stanford (although I prefer Cal when it comes to football and basketball), but my own understanding of Stanford will be informed by whether it faces such questions and by how it chooses to answer them.

    Finally, as context, Fortune recently released its latest rankings of the world’s largest companies. Three of the largest five companies in the world are oil companies: Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, and BP. Five of the top ten companies are oil companies. Seven of the top fifteen companies are oil companies.

    Those rankings are based on revenues. If you look at profits, the story is even more in favor of the oil companies. The profits of the three oil companies that are among the largest five companies in the world totaled $48.4 Billion in 2009, according to the Fortune list. In comparison, the profits of the other two companies among the largest five (Wal-Mart and Toyota) totaled $16.6 Billion, with most of that being Wal-Mart. The most profitable company was ExxonMobil, with profits of $19.3 Billion (according to the list), which was a bad year for them in comparison to 2008.

    So there you have it: The gargantuan and hugely profitable ExxonMobil: The products they push and sell generate well over One Trillion Pounds, per year, of CO2 (ExxonMobil products alone), weighing more than the entire weight of all humans alive today, added together. As we know, their communications often mislead and confuse the public. And, the second-longest-serving member of ExxonMobil’s Board of Directors is a Stanford prof and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, even as Stanford was also home to (heroic) Stephen Schneider and is home to other deeply concerned scientists. Does this all make sense? Can it be reconciled, wisely? Is it “rational”? What should Stanford do? If one hand knows that what the other hand is doing will be harmful to humankind, and is misleading, what should the more responsible hand do? Is it “wisdom”, and is it credible, and is it responsible and admirable, when 97 percent of relevant scientists agree that we have an immense problem, that one of the “hands” of Stanford is helping to lead a company that insists on avoiding responsible paths? Michael Boskin has had fourteen years to have a responsible impact, but ExxonMobil’s actions, for the most part, tell us that they are still trying to keep us moving in directions that will ultimately prove harmful. In my view, some sort of change is in order. What, if anything, will Stanford do?

    Sorry for the digression. As I said in an earlier comment, I salute Stephen, and I think he would want us to continue the good fight.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  62. Anonymous says:

    Arthur Smith wrote:
    July 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    What I find truly sad is that some of Schneider’s last moments on this great planet were spent dealing with hate mail from so-called “skeptics”. What a tragic world we live in.

    While I can appreciate the sentiment, it should not be forgotten that nearly every great visionary or leader has been threatened with violence and death. To cite just one example, Martin Luther King was murdered and yet the rights that he fought for are taken for granted today. If what we risk reveals what we value, then Stephen Schneider should be an inspiring example to all of us. I do not doubt that in time Schneider’s word and works will still be remembered while the hateful words of his adversaries will have faded into the mists of oblivion.

  63. Richard Brenne says:

    Steve gave me my first education about climate change during conversations in 1988.

    Before meeting Steve I always thought a polymath was a parrot who could count. Over two years ago before the presidential primaries Steve said that if there was a major terrorist attack the Republican candidate would win but if there was a major hurricane the Democrat would win. Substitute “financial crisis” for hurricane and he was right, as he was about so many things.

    Last night I was giving a talk to a group of astronomers about climate change when I got the news. I’m still trying to catch my breath and I’m still very sad for our losing such a needed man, and of course for Terry and the rest of his family and friends.

    May we each step up our unity and work in his honor.

  64. Prokaryotes says:

    Scientist leaves behind a climate of abuse http://bit.ly/dydXNI

  65. AH1 says:

    Rest in peace, Dr. Schneider. Your contributions to climate science (including your book – Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save the Earth’s Climate) shall be remembered.

  66. Ana says:

    Clips from what I believe was Steve’s last Congressional hearing are now up. http://globalwarming.house.gov/pubs?id=0019#main_content

    He will be missed.