Sometimes, a sudden unexpected event, knocks people off their comfortable ensconced orbits, offering a brief window of reflection.
One of Stephen Schneider’s main contribution to the global warming debate was his plea to “avoid endless dispute”. Schneider wrote about this in 2001 in Science magazine. He expressed similar sentiments in his interview to Stanford Alumni Magazine published in its July issue. His recent paper in PNAS was an effort in the same direction as well.
Stephen Schneider, although persuaded by the possibility of alarm in climate change, framed his policy advice in what he thought were practical terms. These ideas were reinforced and influenced, mutually, by the way he dealt with his illness.
Q. What has climatology taught you about being a cancer patient?
A. It helped my wife, my doctor and I redesign the protocol to save my life. With upcoming global warming, you can’t have all the facts because the future hasn’t happened yet. You feed the information you do have into a computer and make subjective judgments based on it.
He felt that interminable argument did no one good; he felt that setting aside some resources and effort to tackle the effects of future climate change was not a bad idea.
So what I’m trying to do is get media and the political world to stop framing climate change in “either/or” terms, when we’re really looking at a bell curve of possibilities. It’s like buying insurance. How much of your family income do you want to spend on insurance? The more insurance you have, the safer you are if the house burns down or you get sick. But if the premium is more than you earn, you can’t pay it. I keep using these metaphors to try to make people understand this is just like managing risk in our personal lives. But climate risks occur at the level of the planet, where there is no management other than agreements among willing countries.
That is positive advice to remember him by.