Tag Archives: Stephen Schneider

July 19th, 2010- Stephen Schneider dies

Stephen Schneider was a dude. We could really do with him about now.

Here are some eulogies

And Ben Santer’s

Here’s mine

Stephen Schneider died on Monday. In a rational world his passing would have led the news bulletins, and statements from world leaders and community leaders would have poured in. For Schneider was one of the giants of climate science, one of the first to warn us that we were – and I quote from a 1979 interview now available on youtube“insulting our global environment at a faster rate than we are understanding it.” Schneider’s work covered the ‘hard sciences’ but also the way science
and politics
and science and the media rubbed up against each other. While mourning his loss, we can only honour his memory by… teaching elephants to tapdance.

Let me explain. Last December there was a big international meeting in Copenhagen, with dozens and dozens of heads of state. The hope was that they would come up with a Global Deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide. These gases trap heat that would otherwise disappear into space. They are a blanket, like the blanket that anyone listening to this in bed is lying under. The thickness of that blanket of gas has been relatively constant throughout the Earth’s history. By burning oil and coal and gas, we’re increasing the thickness, heating the planet. At Copenhagen, we were supposed to agree to change our ways. But Copenhagen failed, and there’s no sign of a global deal any time soon.

But even if there were a global deal, it would have to be implemented locally, in villages, towns and cities across the world. And implementing it would be hard, at least as hard as teaching an elephant to tapdance. And in the absence of the global deal, cities
need to take action anyway. We need to reduce our emissions because we have moral – and legal- responsibility – especially in Manchester, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution that kick-started this fossil-fuel craze. We need to prepare for the coming changes, which in Manchester include hotter drier summers and warmer wetter winters. One of the ironies is that Manchester will be one of the last to suffer the direct effects of the process it helped to start.

Right now, Manchester City Council is working out how it is going to meet its obligations towards the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan, which was agreed last November. There’s a big meeting coming up on Tuesday November 30 where they will present what they are doing, and hear from the people of Manchester – charities, businesses, tenants and residents associations – what they think about it, and -crucially – what THEY themselves are doing.

Who knows, in twenty years time, we may look back on this meeting in November as the point at which we started to expect more of our local democratic elephant – and of ourselves in civil society, or should I say “Big Society.” It may be the point where we stop our procrastinating and posturing and instead engage with our friends and neighbours, our schools and places of worship, our places of work and of leisure. It may be the point at which we realise that there is no external saviour – no hand of god, no big international meeting or big disaster that “wakes everyone up.” It may be the moment when we realise we are the ones we have been waiting for, we are the people who must pay for the privileges of living in a free society by challenging anti-social behaviour like flying and wasting energy and food, and by keeping the pressure on our local elected leaders to take ‘courageous decisions.’ Or it can be another milestone on the road to hell, paved as it is, with good intentions.

Addendum. Re-reading the comments underneath the “Realclimate” eulogy to Stephen Schneider, I found this

The mark of a true pioneer is the number of arrows in his back. Stephen kept taking those arrows and never missed step. When the world finally wakes up to the grim realities of man-made climate change, he will be one of those that people will say, ‘Why didn’t we listen to him when we had the chance?”

May 20th 2010 – “Climate Science in the Political Arena”

“On Thursday, May 20th, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing to examine the intersection between climate science and the political process. This hearing, entitled “Climate Science in the Political Arena,” featured prominent climate scientists, some of whom have been the target of these [climategate-y] attacks. This hearing explored scientists’ ability to present data and information that can guide global warming solutions in a sometimes fierce political landscape.”

WHAT: Climate Science in the Political Arena
WHEN: Thursday May 20, 2010, 9:00 AM
WHERE: 1334 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC
OPENING STATEMENT: Chairman Edward J. Markey

Dr. Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences and Chair of the National Research Council
Dr. Mario Molina, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Professor, University of California at San Diego
Dr. Stephen Schneider, Professor, Stanford University
Dr. Ben Santer, Research Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Dr. William Happer, Professor, Princeton University

Roger Pielke Jr was underwhelmed

“Notable is any inclusion on the panel of experts who actually study issues of science and politics. That is because the hearing isn’t really about understanding or managing issues of science and politics, but rather, it is an exercise in seeking to gain political advantage through science. It is set up for a food fight, and that is what they will get. Far from shedding light on the politicization of climate science or how to deal with it, this hearing will just add fuel to the fire. That of course is the point. Its about politics, not science.”

Also on this day – aviation pioneers do their thing…

1927 – At 07:52 Charles Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, on the world’s first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He touched down at Le Bourget Field in Paris at 22:22 the next day.

1932 Amelia Earhart takes off from Newfoundland to begin the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean by a female pilot, landing in Ireland the next day.

As ever, see the disclaimers, help the project and comments policy.

Feb 12, 1979: First World Climate Conference starts


The World Meteorogical Organisation hosted this 10 day conference in Geneva. An opportunity for various climate scientists who had becoming increasingly concerned through the 1970s about the build up of C02 (other gases were known of, but not considered game-changers at this stage).

The final statement was fairly anodyne – “more research” with no policy prescriptions.

Interestingly, there was only one Australian present (the hugely influential WG Gibbs, of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology). Compare this to the much larger contingent 11 years later at the Second Conference, by which time the issue had broken through well and truly into the policy arena. But more of that in November…


See Stephen Schneider (2009) “Science as a contact sport” on John Mason etc


Other things that happened on this day:

1998 Australian APEC Study Centre’s Conference Kyoto — The Impact on Australia 12-13 February

As ever, see the disclaimers, help the project and comments policy.