Villain of the Day: Stephen Schneider

Lance's picture
Submitted by Lance on Mon, 2009-01-26 21:47

From wikipedia:
Stephen H. Schneider (born c. 1945) is Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change (Professor by Courtesy in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) at Stanford University, a Co-Director at the Center for Environment Science and Policy of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Senior Fellow in the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. He has served as a consultant to Federal Agencies and/or White House staff in the Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

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. He is the founder and editor of the journal Climatic Change. He has authored or co-authored over 450 scientific papers, proceedings, legislative testimonies, edited books and book chapters; some 140 book reviews, editorials, published newspaper and magazine interviews and popularizations. He was a Coordinating Lead Author in Working Group II IPCC TAR; and is currently a co-anchor of the Key Vulnerabilities Cross-Cutting Theme for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). During the 1980s Schneider emerged as a leading public advocate of sharp reductions of greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming.

There is a Schneider quote doing the rounds that is correctly attributed to him, but allegedly taken out of context and distorted. This is the version most often seen:

"We need to get some broad based support,
to capture the public's imagination...
So we have to offer up scary scenarios,
make simplified, dramatic statements
and make little mention of any doubts...
Each of us has to decide what the right balance
is between being effective and being honest."

I had no trouble believing an IPCC and AGW theory cheerleader would think like that, I did however have trouble believing they'd be foolish enough to say it on record.

So, I decided to make sure the quote was correctly attributed, genuine and see if there was any further context. Such research didn't take long and I am glad I checked up on it.

Here Professor Schneider defends the statement and provides the full quote and context.

"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."

He seems to think that calling it a "double ethical bind" absolves him and that he provides an acceptable context that should make us all go "Oooh so he's torn between being a competent and objective scientist and the 'need' to sensationalise and lie for the good of humanity, that's all right then".

Congratulations Professor Schneider, your hand-wringing doubts over ethics and integrity vs your perceived 'greater good' wins you SOLO's Villain of the Day award.


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Isn't there an...

Marcus's picture

...green eco-nut bias at Wikipedia, or is that only for the entries of Global Warming sceptics?

Double ethical bind OR give some lip-service to scientific truth before you suggest lying-your-pants off to get politicians to take us back to the dark-ages?

Caught red-handed

gregster's picture

Good stuff Lance.

I've added my name to the Gore/Monckton challenge over at GGW swindle.

Woopsey - fixed.

Lance's picture

Woopsey - fixed.

What is a villian?

Peter's picture

What is a villian?

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