Stanford climate scientist Steve Schneider dead at 65
19 July 2010
(Updated 24 July 2010 9:42 a.m. EDT)
A scientist with a knack for communicating to the public dies Monday after a career that was both 'impressively long and all-too short.'
By Douglas Fischer
Daily Climate editor
Stanford climate scientist Stephen Schneider, one of the pre-eminent voices in the climate debate and a rare researcher who argued with wit and passion about the limits of climate science and the need for aggressive response, died Monday of an apparent heart attack while en route to London from a scientific conference in Stockholm. He was 65.
Over the course of his 40-year career, Schneider built the case that the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has dire consequences for the globe. He also studied the policy implications of human-caused global warming, publishing some 400 articles on climate change and society's response.
"Steve did for climate science what Carl Sagan did for astronomy," wrote Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory atmospheric scientist Benjamin Santer.
"The pathway he chose - to be a scientific leader, to be a leader in science communication, and to fully embrace the interdisciplinary nature of the climate change problem - was not an easy pathway," Santer added. "Yet without the courage of leaders like Stephen Schneider, the world would not be on the threshold of agreeing to radically change the way we use energy."
Schneider advised every U.S. president from Nixon to Obama on global warming and was involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since the beginning. But his contributions extend "far, far beyond his superb science," as Peter Gleick, president and co-founder of the Pacific Institute in California, noted.
"Schneider was perhaps the most important communicator on climate science issues to the public and to policymakers," Gleick wrote in a post on Huffington Post. "He taught us the importance of speaking up in defense of the integrity of science and the public interest."
Scientists, reporters and others from around the world reacted to the news. Here is a collection of remembrances and tributes.
To post your remembrance, or suggest the inclusion of one here, please email DailyClimate editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [ at ] dailyclimate.org
Associated Press: Climate scientist Stephen Schneider dead at 65
New York Times: Stephen H. Schneider, climatologist, is dead at 65
San Jose Mercury News: Stanford climate scientist Stephen Schneider dies at 65.
Los Angeles Times: Stephen H. Schneider dies at 65; Stanford expert on climate change
Washington Post: Stephen H. Schneider, climate change expert, dies at 65
All Things Considered: Climate change expert Stephen Schneider dies
San Francisco Chronicle: Climate scientist Stephen H. Schneider dies
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: The passing of a climate prodigy
Australian Associated Press: Prominent climate-change scientist dies
UCAR Magazine: An extraordinary life
Includes video of a 1977 interview on "The Tonight Show" (check out Schneider's tie!) and vintage photos from Schneider's early career days at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
ClimateCentral.org: Climate science loses a key figure
A collection of testimonials from Schneider's colleagues who are grappling with what his loss means for the field.
Living On Earth: Remembering a Nobel climate scientist
The Van Cliburn of climate change ... on a quest to save us from ourselves.
Andrew Revkin, DotEarth blog: The passing of a climate warrior
It was his caustic honesty about the complex nature of global warming, and the inherent uncertainties in the science, that kept me returning to him for input from 1988 onward.
Al Gore, AlGore.com: Mourning the loss of a friend
A prolific researcher and author, co-founder of the journal Climatic Change, and a wonderful communicator, his contributions to the advancement of climate science will be sorely missed.
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University
(on Schneider's battle with cancer, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times)
He was in absolute misery, but every time you'd go into his room, he was writing on his computer. You'll never find a scientist more dedicated to trying to explain science to the general public and decision-makers than Steve.
Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute: Dr. Stephen Schneider, climate warrior
Schneider was perhaps the most important communicator on climate science issues to the public and to policymakers. Steve was committed to challenging those who deny the realities of climate change because he understood that their abuse and misuse of climate science threatens the health of humans and the planet itself.
Ben Santer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Today the world lost a great man
The pathway he chose - to be a scientific leader, to be a leader in science communication, and to fully embrace the interdisciplinary nature of the climate change problem - was not an easy pathway. Yet without the courage of leaders like Stephen Schneider, the world would not be on the threshold of agreeing to radically change the way we use energy.
Jeffrey R. Koseff, Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment
Steve, more than anything, whether you agreed with him or not, forced us to confront this real possibility of climate change.
Amy Luers, Google.org: In honour of Steve Schneider
I remember one line he often repeated to me: "Amy, when it comes to climate science, always stick to the facts; the truth is bad enough."
Richard Somerville, Scripps Institute of Oceanography: The passing of a climate prodigy
It must be said that Schneider also had an ego, talked nonstop and loved being on television. If these are character flaws, then we surely need more flawed characters just like him.
Bud Ward, Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media: Mourning the huge loss of a 'giant'
You always knew where Steve Schneider stood, because he looked you in the eye and told you. And you knew whether he was speaking from personal belief or from sheer emotion or preferences and when he was speaking based on his understanding of established evidence. Again, because he told you.
Michael D. Lemonick, ClimateCentral.org: A great climate scientist passes on
He earned the respect of colleagues and also of journalists who could trust him to be, not an alarmist or a truth-stretcher, but ruthlessly honest about what we actually know and what we don't know about the science.
San Francisco Chronicle editorial: Remembering a climate warrior
Stephen H. Schneider had taken up the cause of climate change, armed with the sword of his convictions and the shield of scientific data.... We've lost a fierce climate warrior when we need him the most.
Joe Romm, ClimateProgress.com: Remembering Steve Schneider
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.
Richard Moss, World Wildlife Fund: Climate blog
He will live on by providing an example of the importance of acting on one's scientific beliefs.
Steve Schneider portrait courtesy Stanford University; Schneider at the 2009 America's Climate Choices Summit by Claudia Pooladi/National Academies
DailyClimate.org is a nonprofit news service covering climate change.
Find more Daily Climate stories in the TDC Newsroom