PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA—In March, climatologist Steven Schneider, drowsy from chemotherapy, was getting ready to go to bed. When he checked his e-mail, though, he found
hundreds of messages from global warming skeptics and decided to respond. The next thing he knew, it was 3 a.m. and his wife was yelling at him to go
to sleep. "In illness and in health, he was just plain working harder than everyone else on what needed doing," said White House scientist-in-chief
John Holdren on Sunday at a memorial service for Schneider.
Schneider was a tireless and prolific scientist, publishing hundreds of influencial papers that he wrote, or edited as founder of Climatic Change. His battle with lymphoma barely slowed him down, but some speculated that his relentless pace may have ultimately taken a toll.
Schneider died in July of an apparent heart attack while flying back to California from a climate meeting. "This brave and relentless man killed
himself trying to do what he thought was right," said Former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth.
Memories, alcohol, and tears flowed between PowerPoint presentations on climate science and politics at this wonky and star-studded "Memorial
Celebration." More than 300 climate scientists, colleagues, and friends of Schneider crowded into a big lecture hall at Stanford University. Actor and
environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., Holdren, and NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco sat through 6-hours of lectures on climate research and songs to celebrate the
life of the climatologist who could communicate science like few others.
In dozens of lectures, hundreds of press interviews, and countless articles no climate scientist engaged lawmakers, international audiences, the press,
and the public more than Schneider did. "He was among the clearest explainers about how we knew what we know," said Holdren in a talk entitled "Climate
Change Science and Sanity: Steve Schneider's Extraordinary Contributions to Both" His work to educate the public "easily stands in comparison to what
Carl Sagan did for astronomy," Holdren added.
It wasn't all about Schneider. In dueling talks on climate and society Naomi Oreskes, a Univeristy of California, San Diego, historian, and Stanford
political scientist Jon Krosnick each laid out aspects of the climate communication challenge. Oreskes tracked the history of "active, disinformation
campaigns" in derailing progress on public climate awareness. Krosnick suggested the reason that so many politicians questioned climate science tenets
was that they didn't know their constituents actually thought global warming was a serious problem. Either way, Holdren's view that the communication
challenge was incomplete was shared by nearly all. "Finishing the job is the task that Steve's untimely passing has left to all of us."
The adoration for Schneider seemed to bolster his widow, Terry Root, a Stanford expert on climate impacts on ecology. Root expressed her thanks at the
microphone as night fell on the campus outside. "Having so much love in this room has really helped me," she said quietly. Then she led the crowd in a
folksy rendition of Crosby Stills, Nash, Young's "Teach Your Children," one of Schneider's favorites.