[Marxism] Stephen H. Schneider, Climatologist, Is Dead at 65
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
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
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
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
“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.
More information about the Marxism