Stephen Schneider: A stranger to honesty

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Fri, 2009-03-20 12:23

Expect to hear the name “Professor Stephen Schneider” used
frequently around the local warmist traps in days, weeks and months to

The government’s Select Committee Inquiry into so called Climate Change has begun, with the alleged scientist – described in this report at Stuff
as a “Stanford University environmental scientist” – demonstrating how ridiculous it was to explicitly exclude the science from the inquiry by delivering a whole slew of warmist propaganda on “the science” to the Select Committee, without (presumably) opponents being given the opportunity to debunk the nonsense. 

Which allows Schneider (much like Warmist William Schlesinger did in his recent debate with John Christie)
to just skip the the hard science (and any hard questions) and instead head straight for the “projections” and the scaremongering.

You know the sort of stuff: temperatures going through the roof, glaciers
melting, sea levels rising catastrophically.  All delivered with a
straight face and no particular evidence to speak of even needed to
back it up.

    He [Schneider] spoke about a potential 5m sea level rise if the Greenland ice sheet melted, but said there were only theories as to what level of global temperature increase would induce such a catastrophe.*
    His own assessment [he confided to the Committee] was that a rise of over 2degC was more likely than not to cause the sheet to melt. . .

Well, good for Professor Schneider (whose qualifications are not in fact in climatology, but in mechanical engineering and plasma physics) but perhaps we should remember just what “his own assessment” is actually worth.

  • He was the endorser, in 1976, of Lowell Ponte’s book The Cooling, in which Ponte blithely declares, “This cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000.
  • That’s right, Schneider the Global Warmist
    was once Schneider the Global Kool-Aid promoter.  Back in 1978, before his big career change, he declared, "There is a finite possibility that a serious worldwide cooling could befall the Earth within the next 100 years."  Really, Stephen?
  • In 1971, Schneider claimed that an 800% increase in CO2 would be needed to raise global temperature by +2 deg. But by the late 1980s, he was promoting the UN view that a mere 100% increase in CO2 would be enough to raise temperature by +1.5 to +4 deg.  Now, apparently, he’s promoting the notion that a 50% increase is sufficient to make it rise by +1.1 to +6.4 deg.  He’s got wilder as he’s got more alarmist.
  • When we were cooling he said: "....our calculations suggest a decrease in global temperature by as much as 3.5 degrees Celsius. Such a large decrease in the average temperature of Earth, sustained over a period of a few years, is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age."
  • When were were warming, he said: "We're increasing the number of heat waves."
  • When we were cooling: “A cooling trend has set in, perhaps one akin to the Little Ice Age."
  • When we were warming: "The rate of change is so fast that I don't hesitate to call it potentially catastrophic for ecosystems."
  • When we were cooling: "Temperatures do not increase in proportion to an atmospheric increase in CO2 ... Even an eight-fold increase... might warm earth's surface less than two degrees Centigrade, and this is highly unlikely in the next several thousand years."
  • When were were warming: "It is journalistically irresponsible to present both sides [of the global warming theory] as though it were a question of balance. " [Says the Washington Pest, from whom I drew some of these quotes, “apparently, journalists should have ignored him when he said we were heading towards an ice age?”’
  • When we stopped warming: "[Global warming linked to emissions of CO2, methane and other gases] is a scientific phenomenon beyond doubt. It's only a question of how much warming there will be.”

You get the picture.

The case of Stephen Schneider demonstrates, said David Frum, that "it was less important to the new apocalyptics to know which catastrophe was going to ravage the world than to agree that some catastrophe was sure to do so."

No wonder “global warming” has been renamed “climate change.” It’s to save catastrophists like Schneider from being embarrassed.

Don’t expect science from this professor anyway, since he’s no fan of looking at evidence (which makes him an ideal advocate for warmism, since warming presently appears nowhere except in the warmists' doctored computer models), as evidenced by this admission from a 1990 interview:

Looking at every bump and wiggle of the record is a waste of time - it's like trying to figure out the probability of a pair of dice by looking at the individual rolls. You've got to look at averages. So, I don't set very much store in looking at the direct evidence.

was on this basis, i.e., not looking at the direct evidence, that
Schneider was able to dismiss the mountain of evidence that, for
example, Bjorn Lomborg brought forward in his book The Sceptical Environmentalist, and even berate the Cambridge University Press for its publication.  The Danish Space Research Institute, who considered Schneider’s jaundiced allegations against Lomborg stated, in their low key Scandinavian way: "It is ironic that Stephen Schneider accuses Lomborg for not reading the original literature, when in his own arguments he becomes liable to similar criticism."

And of course, this alleged scientist is on record as telling Discover magazine back in 1989 that,

Tocapture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. This "double ethical bind" we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.*

I wonder if any Select Committee members considered asking of Schneider the question asked by Julian Simon:

Does this sort of person ever stop and ask himself such questions as: Why should anyone believe me now if I was so wrong then? Would it have been a good thing if I had then been more effective in getting the public's attention? What about if I had stretched the truth then as I now advocate doing - would that have been a good thing?

Or if anyone asked him which of the two approaches he had decided to take with them?  Which “balance” between “being effective” and “being
honest” he had decided to adopt that particular afternoon?  Or, after
three decades of lying for a living, if he even knows what honesty
looks like any more.

* NB: On Schneider’s sea level story, which he’s been putting about for some time, the Science and Public Policy Institute issued a “Scare Note” back in January:

[Schneider’s claim], “We cannot pin down whether sea levels will rise a few feet or a few meters in the next century or two” is unfounded. The UN’s climate panel, the IPCC, says sea level will rise just 17 inches in the 21st century, compared with 8 inches in the 20th. The IPCC also says Greenland would only lose half of its vast ice sheet if global surface temperatures remained at least 2 degrees Celsius higher than the present for several thousand years. Since the turn of the millennium on 1 January 2001, global temperatures have fallen for eight straight years at a rate equivalent to 1 degree Celsius per century.
    The SPPI ScareWatch briefing note also contains photographs of two US early-warning radar stations taken 20 years ago and more recently, showing a very rapid increase in snow and ice surrounding the stations. Greenland’s ice sheet has been thickening at an average rate of more than 2 inches a year, probably contributing a small overall reduction to sea level in the past decade or two. This considerable increase in the ice-mass of Greenland more than compensates for a reduction of just 0.3% in the area covered by ice over the past 30 years.
    Bob Ferguson, President of SPPI, said:
“Mr. Schneider does not cite a single scientific paper or fact anywhere in his [blog post in which he first made the claim]. A recent paper by me, also available at our website, points out that many of Greenland’s glaciers have stopped receding and are advancing again.
    Adds SPPI adviser, Christopher Monckton, “Temperatures in Greenland are actually lower today than they were in the 1930s and early 1940s. And there was no ice anywhere in Greenland 850,000 years ago: the whole ice sheet melted away. We cannot have been to blame, because [our industrial civilisation] did not exist that long ago. Even if Greenland were to melt again, it would be impossible to state that humankind was chiefly to blame. As it is, there is no danger of major ice loss from Greenland at any time in the near future. To suggest otherwise is fantasy.”
    SPPI’s  paper can be accessed here:
ScareWatch: Melting Greenland ice “will drown coastlines” by Christopher Monckton

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