|Born||Stephen Henry Schneider
February 11, 1945
New York City, U.S.
|Died||July 19, 2010
|Known for||Climate change science, policy and education
Founding editor of Climatic Change
|Notable awards||MacArthur Fellowship (1992)
Elected to National Academy of Sciences (2002)
Stephen Henry Schneider (February 11, 1945 – July 19, 2010) was Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University, a Co-Director at the Center for Environment Science and Policy of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Senior Fellow in the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Schneider served as a consultant to federal agencies and White House staff in the Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.
His research included modeling of the atmosphere, climate change, and the effect of global climate change on biological systems. 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. During the 1980s, Schneider emerged as a leading public advocate of sharp reductions of greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming. In 2006 Professor Schneider was an Adelaide Thinker in Residence advising the South Australian Government of Premier Mike Rann on climate change and renewable energy policies. In ten years South Australia went from zero to 31% of its electricity generation coming from renewables.
An annual award for outstanding climate science communication was created in Schneider's honor after his death.
Schneider grew up in Long Island, New York. He studied engineering at Columbia University, receiving his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1966. In 1971, he earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and plasma physics. Schneider studied the role of greenhouse gases and suspended particulate material on climate as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
In 1971, Schneider was second author on a Science paper with S. I. Rasool titled "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols: Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate" (Science 173, 138–141). This paper used a one-dimensional radiative transfer model to examine the competing effects of cooling from aerosols and warming from CO2. The paper concluded:
However, it is projected that man's potential to pollute will increase 6 to 8-fold in the next 50 years. If this increased rate of injection... should raise the present background opacity by a factor of 4, our calculations suggest a decrease in global temperature by as much as 3.5 °C. Such a large decrease in the average temperature of Earth, sustained over a period of few years, is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age. However, by that time, nuclear power may have largely replaced fossil fuels as a means of energy production.
Carbon dioxide was predicted to have only a minor role. However, the model was very simple and the calculation of the CO2 effect was lower than other estimates by a factor of about three, as noted in a footnote to the paper.
The story made headlines in the New York Times. Shortly afterwards, Schneider became aware that he had overestimated the cooling effect of aerosols, and underestimated the warming effect of CO2 by a factor of about three. He had mistakenly assumed that measurements of air particles he had taken near the source of pollution applied worldwide. He also found that much of the effect was due to natural aerosols which would not be affected by human activities, so the cooling effect of changes in industrial pollution would be much less than he had calculated. Having found that recalculation showed that global warming was the more likely outcome, he published a retraction of his earlier findings in 1974.
In 1976 Schneider wrote The Genesis Strategy: Climate and Global Survival in which he said:
One form of such pollution that affects the entire atmosphere is the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas.... Human activities have already raised the CO2 content in the atmosphere by 10 percent and are estimated to raise it some 25 percent by the year 2000. In later chapters, I will show how this increase could lead to a 1° Celsius (1.8° Fahrenheit) average warming of the earth's surface... Another form of atmospheric pollution results from... atmospheric aerosols... there is some evidence that atmospheric aerosols may have already affected the climate. A consensus among scientists today would hold that a global increase in atmospheric aerosols would probably result in a cooling of the climate; however, a smaller but growing fraction of the current evidence suggests that it may have a warming effect.
And in another section ("What Does It All Mean?", p. 90):
I have cited many examples of recent climatic variability and repeated the warnings of several well-known climatologists that a cooling effect has set in – perhaps one akin to the Little Ice Age - and that climatic variability, which is the bane of reliable food production, can be expected to increase along with the cooling.
...it insists on maintaining the shock effect of the dramatic...rather than the reality of the discipline: we just don't know enough to choose definitely at this stage whether we are in for warming or cooling— or when.
He was a frequent contributor to commercial and noncommercial print and broadcast media on climate and environmental issues, e.g., NOVA, Planet Earth, Nightline, Today Show, Tonight Show, Bill Maher Show, Good Morning America, Dateline, Discovery Channel, British, Canadian and Australian Broadcasting Corporations.
Schneider has commented about the frustrations and difficulties involved with assessing and communicating scientific ideas.
In a January 2002 Scientific American article Schneider wrote:
- I readily confess a lingering frustration: uncertainties so infuse the issue of climate change that it is still impossible to rule out either mild or catastrophic outcomes, let alone provide confident probabilities for all the claims and counterclaims made about environmental problems. Even the most credible international assessment body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has refused to attempt subjective probabilistic estimates of future temperatures. This has forced politicians to make their own guesses about the likelihood of various degrees of global warming.
In 1989, Schneider addressed the challenge scientists face trying to communicate complex, important issues without adequate time during media interviews. This citation sometimes was used by his critics to accuse him of supporting misuse of science for political goals:
- On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both. (Quoted in Discover, pp. 45–48, Oct. 1989. For the original, together with Schneider's commentary on its misrepresentation, see also American Physical Society, APS News August/September 1996.).
- 1991 AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology.
- 1992 MacArthur Fellow "Genius Award".
- 2002 Elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
- Chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences (1999–2001).
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to which Schneider made very significant contributions, shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
Schneider was a survivor of an aggressive cancer, mantle cell lymphoma. He documented his struggle to conquer the condition, including applying his own knowledge of science to design his own treatment regime, in a self-published 2005 book, The Patient from Hell. He died unexpectedly on July 19, 2010 after suffering a pulmonary embolism while returning from a scientific meeting in Käringön, Sweden.
- Michael D. Mastrandrea; Stephen H. Schneider (October 2010). Preparing for Climate Change. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-01488-2.
- Stephen H. Schneider, Tim Flannery introduction (2009) Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save the Earth's Climate. National Geographic Society (November 3, 2009) ISBN 978-1-4262-0540-8
- Stephen H. Schneider, Janica Lane (2005) The Patient from Hell: How I Worked with My Doctors to Get the Best of Modern Medicine and How You Can Too. Da Capo Lifelong Books.
- Stephen H. Schneider, Armin Rosencranz, John O. Niles (eds., 2002), Climate Change Policy: A Survey, Island Press, 368 pp; June 2002.
- Stephen H. Schneider and Terry L. Root (Editors, 2001), Wildlife Responses to Climate Change: North American Case Studies, Island Press; December 2001.
- Stephen H. Schneider (1997), Laboratory Earth: the Planetary Gamble We Can't Afford to Lose, HarperCollins; January 1997
- Stephen H. Schneider (Editor, 1996), Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather, Oxford University Press; May 1996.
- Stephen H. Schneider, Penelope J. Boston (Eds, 1992), Scientists on Gaia, MIT Press; February 1992
- Stephen H. Schneider (1989), Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century?, Sierra Club Books; October 1989
- Stephen H. Schneider, Randi Londer (1984), Coevolution of Climate and Life, Sierra Club Books; May 1984
- Stephen H. Schneider, Lynne E. Mesirow (1976), The Genesis Strategy: Climate and Global Survival, Plenum Pub Corp; April 1976.
- Martin, Douglas (July 20, 2010). "Stephen H. Schneider, Climatologist, Is Dead at 65". The New York Times.
- Nuzzo, R. (2005). "Profile of Stephen H. Schneider". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (44): 15725–15727. doi:10.1073/pnas.0507327102. PMC 1276082. PMID 16249332.
- Rasool SI, Schneider SH (July 1971). "Atmospheric carbon dioxide and aerosols: effects of large increases on global climate". Science 173 (3992): 138–41. doi:10.1126/science.173.3992.138. PMID 17739641.
- Pearce, Fred, The Climate Files: The Battle for the Truth about Global Warming, (2010) Guardian Books, ISBN 978-0-85265-229-9, pp. 24–27. "When he redid the maths, the balance between warming and cooling now tipped strongly towards warming."
- Schneider SH (December 1977). "Against instant books" (PDF). Nature 270 (5639): 650. doi:10.1038/270650a0.
- Schneider SH (January 2002). "Misleading Math about the Earth: Science defends itself against The Skeptical Environmentalist". Sci. Am.
- Schneider SH (August/September 1996). "Don’t Bet All Environmental Changes Will Be Beneficial". APS News (American Physical Society): 5.
- AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, 1991.
- Shute, Nancy (2005-10-17). "A Hell of a Patient". U.S. News & World Report 139 (14). p. 18. ISSN 0041-5537.
- USAToday July 19, 2010
- Stanford climate scientist Stephen Schneider dies at 65
- "The Bulletin Interview: Stephen Schneider". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 65 (4): 5–13. Jul/Aug 2009. doi:10.2968/065004002.
- Johnson, Dan (Jul–Aug 1997). "Earth's Changing Climate". The Futurist 31 (4): 6. ISSN 0016-3317.
- Wisdom for a Livable Planet: The Visionary Work of Terri Swearingen, Dave Foreman, Wes Jackson, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Werner Fornos, Herman Daly, Stephen Schneider, and David Orr by Carl N. McDaniel. Trinity University Press 2005. ISBN 9781595340092
- Stephen Schneider at the Internet Movie Database
- Biography of Dr. Schneider (stanford.edu)
- Dr. Schneider's 1997 testimony to the U.S. Senate.
- Exchange between Schneider and Richard Lindzen is no longer available on the Cato Institute web site, but is available on the Internet Archive
- New York Times announcing his death
- Insight: The Sceptics - Answering questions from a roomful of climate change sceptics, 2010.
- Climate Change: Is the Science Settled? a presentation made at Stanford University in February 2010.
- Science and Distortion by Climate One