Though I can't altogether justify it, I can't escape the feeling that the death on July 19 of Stephen B. Schneider somehow got lost in the noise of this summer's surf. The more alert climate bloggers, including Andrew Revkin at the New York Times and William Hewitt at the Foreign Policy Association, immediately reported it and with lively appreciation of Schneider's significance. The New York Times ran a nice obituary, as did other papers. But I didn't see anything on anybody's front page, and there were no after-the-fact tributes in the leading pages of opinion--at least none that I noticed.
For an appreciation, I highly recommend a piece posted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, "The Passing of a Climate Prodigy." A physicist and engineer turned climatologist, Schneider was a productive scientist throughout a career that took him from GISS to NCAR and finally Stanford. But much more than most scientists, Schneider was eager to involve himself in the details of policy formulation and willing to dirty his hands in politics. (It was mainly for this reason, no doubt, that he was one of MacArthur's designated geniuses.) He founded and led the influential interdisciplinary journal Climate Change, and he was a lead author for all four of the major IPCC assessment reports.
If the recommendations of the recent IPCC review panel are followed, Schneider would not have been able to continue as a lead writer in future reports, as rotation of authors is called for. But that doesn't mean his voice would not have been heard. At a time when global climate policy is in profound disarray, Schneider's informed attention to the subject will be missed more than ever.
PHOTO CREDIT: Patricia Pooladi, National Academy of Sciences