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Stephen Schneider

Stephen Schneider is Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University. His research includes modeling of the atmosphere, climate change, and "the relationship of biological systems to global climate change." He has helped draw public attention to the issue of climate change.

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Changing views

Towards the end of the 1940-1975 global cooling[?] period, Schneider warned that carbon dioxide emissions would "reduce the surface temperature of Earth" and could "trigger an ice age." [1] (http://www.ff.org/library/whatsnext) Two decades later, Schneider emerged as a leading advocate of the global warming theory, in which carbon dioxide emissions are held to increase the earth's temperature.

Public Relations

Scheider has commented publicly about the frustrations and difficulties involved with assessing and communicating scientific ideas.

Neglecting the complexities

In a Scientific American article Schneider writes:

I readily confess a lingering frustration: uncertainties so infuse the issue of climate change that it is still impossible to rule out either mild or catastrophic outcomes, let alone provide confident probabilities for all the claims and counterclaims made about environmental problems. Even the most credible international assessment body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has refused to attempt subjective probabilistic estimates of future temperatures. This has forced politicians to make their own guesses about the likelihood of various degrees of global warming. [2] (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000F3D47-C6D2-1CEB-93F6809EC5880000)

Scary scenarios

Schneider once spoke of the difficulties scientists have communicated their work to the public:

"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but - which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both." (Quoted in Discover, pp. 45-48, Oct. 1989, see also American Physical Society, APS News August/September 1996). (source[3] (http://www.sciam.com/media/pdf/lomborgrebuttal.pdf))

Some opponents have called Schneider a scaremonger, quoting only one sentence out of the long passage above: ". . . we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have." Schneider says that sentence has been taken out of context.

See: global warming

See also [4] (http://www.senate.gov/~epw/105th/schn0710.htm), Dr. Schneider's 1997 testimony to the U.S. Senate.



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