[Marxism] Stephen H. Schneider, Climatologist, Is Dead at 65

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 20 07:14:08 MDT 2010

NY Times July 19, 2010
Stephen H. Schneider, Climatologist, Is Dead at 65

Stephen H. Schneider, an influential climatologist who used the 
results of complex scientific models he developed to become a 
leader in pressing for action to address global warming, died 
Monday in London. He was 65.

His wife, Terry L. Root, said he died of a heart attack or an 
embolism on a flight from Sweden as the plane was landing in London.

Dr. Schneider wrote books on the effects of climate change on 
areas as diverse as politics and wildlife. He advised the 
administration of every president from Richard M. Nixon to Barack 
Obama and was part of a United Nations panel on climate change 
that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President 
Al Gore.

In 2001, Dr. Schneider was found to have mantle cell lymphoma, a 
rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he applied the same sort 
of analysis to the disease that he used in his scientific work. He 
wrote a book four years later when the disease was in remission, 
“The Patient From Hell.”

“Am I going to apply to my own treatment the principles that I’m 
advising government and industries to apply to deal with climate 
change uncertainties?” he asked in a 2005 interview with the 
National Academy of Sciences, of which he was a member. “Hell, yes.”

In a statement, Mr. Gore called Dr. Schneider “a prolific 
researcher and author, co-founder of the journal Climatic Change 
and a wonderful communicator” who greatly contributed “to the 
advancement of climate science.”

In an interview on Monday, the biologist and population expert 
Paul R. Ehrlich said, “I don’t think anybody has worked harder and 
longer to educate the public on climate issues in particular and 
science issues in general.”

That human beings release warming gases into the atmosphere has 
been known since the early 19th century. But in recent years, 
scientists have employed satellites, computers and other 
technological means to construct complex mathematical models to 
predict future changes in temperature.

The resulting consensus — which Dr. Schneider helped form with 
models that combine interrelated processes like ocean dynamics and 
cloud changes — is that temperatures are rising and that 
potentially disastrous climate changes could result.

Skeptics have questioned both the science and the need for costly 
expenditures to stop the predicted warming, like cutting coal 
consumption. But Dr. Schneider fought so tenaciously for a 
forceful approach to stop the warming that The New Republic last 
year called him “a scientific pugilist.”

He rejected hyperbole, readily conceding that uncertainty was 
unavoidable in something so complicated and long-term. The 
conference he had attended in Sweden before his death was partly 
to discuss how climate-change skeptics use that uncertainty to 
advance their cause.

But because the costs of global warming — from the melting of 
icecaps to the flooding of islands — is so high, Dr. Schneider 
maintained, not acting is riskier than acting. He demanded action 
from national, international and corporate leaders.

His case was buttressed by the “accumulated preponderance of 
evidence” scientists had amassed, he said. In an interview with 
the magazine American Scientist this year, he said his opponents 
relied on “the political chicanery of ideologists and special 

His worry, he told the magazine, was that lobbying and advertising 
by “greedy” corporations would obscure this increasingly clear 
science. He asked, “Can democracy survive complexity?”

Stephen Henry Schneider was born in New York City in 1945 and grew 
up on Long Island, where he made a telescope at age 13 and was 
thrilled to see the rings of Saturn. At Columbia University, he 
earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering in 1966, 
and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and plasma physics in 1971.

Dr. Schneider was elected to serve on a new student-faculty senate 
that was established at Columbia after a wave of student 
demonstrations in 1968. He told the National Academy of Sciences 
that this experience taught him to strive to see both sides of 
every question.

“Let’s discover our differing value systems, and then look for a 
foundation of shared values where we might find a way to live 
together,” he said.

Dr. Schneider said his decision to become a climate scientist was 
“a marriage of convenience and deep conviction.” The conviction 
came from his decision on Earth Day 1970 to devote himself to the 
environment. The convenience was ample opportunity in the climate 

“My God, all that low-hanging fruit, all the simple discoveries 
are waiting to be made in this important field,” he said.

Dr. Schneider began postdoctoral study at the Goddard Institute 
for Space Studies of NASA, then moved to the National Center for 
Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. He helped found the 
agency’s climate project and helped start the journal Climatic 
Change there. He worked on the impact that nuclear war could have 
on the climate.

In 1992 he joined the Stanford faculty, where he held several 
positions. That year he was awarded a MacArthur fellowship, in 
part for his contributions in communicating scientific information.

As a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 
established by the United Nations in 1988, Dr. Schneider helped 
write papers that were influential in framing the climate-change 
discussion. In sharing the Nobel Peace Prize, the group and Mr. 
Gore were cited “for their efforts to build up and disseminate 
greater knowledge about man-made climate change.”

Global warming skeptics liked to point to an article Dr. Schneider 
wrote that appeared in the journal Science in 1971 to suggest that 
he vacillated. In it, he predicted that the future climate danger 
could be global cooling, not global warming. He later explained 
that the cooling forces were regional, while the warming ones were 

In either case, people were thinking about climate in more dynamic 
ways. In an interview with The New York Times the next year, Dr. 
Schneider paraphrased Mark Twain.

“Nowadays,” he said, “everybody is doing something about the 
weather but nobody is talking about it.”

Felicity Barringer contributed reporting.

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