Stephen Schneider has died. I’ve been traveling and missed the news until I looked back and noticed Paul Chesser’s post.
Gregg Easterbrook has very nice things to say about Schneider:
It was sad to hear on Monday of the death of climate researcher Stephen Schneider, 65, of Stanford University, whom I knew slightly and debated on two occasions. Schneider was a true believer in the dangers of global warming. He was a warm and broadminded man, open to the opinions of others. He exhibited none of the shrillness that colors the climate-doomsday crowd.
Schneider thought greenhouse gas regulation would not happen until a reasonable middle ground is found between the doomsday left and naysayer right. No such middle ground is in view on any current horizon – this week’s acrimonious collapse of talks in the Senate about a greenhouse gas bill is evidence. Harsh, strident ideology on both sides is a reason the Senate bill failed. If all players in the climate change debate had even half the personal grace and geniality Schneider possessed, progress would be proceeding apace.
I have to assume that Schneider was a nice guy, but I have no direct knowledge about his demeanor. But his scientific consistency was something different. Many people do not know that Schneider worried about a new Ice Age before he told us the world was going to burn up.
There’s an old Leonard Nimoy climate special set in Buffalo, New York during one of its worst winters a couple decades back that includes an appearance by Dr. Schneider. And he wasn’t worried about CO2 emissions and a warming planet. Instead, he thought glaciers were set to doom humanity.
Presumably he changed his position because he thought doing so was warranted by the evidence. But it’s worth remembering a newspaper interview that he gave back in the early 1990s. The Washington Times editorialized on his amazing honesty. (The piece is in the archives, but you have to pay for access: “Unbalancing Act,” June 12, 1992, p. F2.)
Explains the Times:
“It is journalistically irresponsible to present both sides [of the global warming question] as though it were a question of balance,” he told the Boston Globe recently. “Given the distribution of views, with groups like the National Academy of Science expressing strong scientific conern, it is irresponsible to give equal time to a few people standing out in left field.”
But there are good reasons for balanced reporting, and one of them is none other than Stephen Schneider. Those who quote him run the risk of using information from someone who can’t seem to get his story (to say nothing of his facts) straight. Two decades ago he was warning the world that “a cooling trend has set in, perhaps one akin to the Little Ice Age.”
One of Mr. Schneider’s problems is that the doesn’t let data get in the way of a good scare. “Looking at every bump and wiggle of the record is a waste of time,” he once said. “So, I don’t set very much store by looking at the direct evidence.”
His methods are admittedly more unorthodox. “To avert the risk [of global warming] we need to get some braod-based support, to capture public imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make some simplified dramatic statements and 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.”
Sounds like today’s global warming debate, writ large.
Stephen Schneider, RIP.