NPR Mourns Global Cooler-Turned-Global Warmer Scientist

July 20th, 2010 2:19 PM

Few seem to remember now, but throughout the 1970s, the advertised threat to society from global cooling was as prevalent as the current global warming alarmism. Publications including The New York Times, Time and Newsweek - the same ones hyping the dangers of a warming planet in 2010 - were warning about global cooling then.

A prominent global cooler from that era has recently passed away. Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University climatologist and United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change member died in London on July 19, as noticed on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." (h/t Tim Graham)

In an interview with NPR's Michele Norris, White House Science Adviser John Holdren remembered Schneider, not for getting the science wrong at first but for inventing this field of science, with its acknowledgement that mankind could change the climate.

"Steve would come up with crucial insights that really opened up whole new dimensions of research in climate science," Holdren said on the July 19 broadcast. "One of his big contributions was that the influences that humans were having on climate was not just the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane and others, but our influence also included the effects of particles. And he was sometimes criticized for being too extreme. But, in fact, he was very middle of the road. Steve was as fierce in his criticism of people who he thought were overstating what we know about climate as he was in his criticisms of those he thought were understating."

Holdren is a curious but perhaps appropriate individual for NPR to turn to in remembering the work on Schneider and his theory of human's impacting nature extensively. In the 1970s, Holdren made his own controversial statements. In a 1973 book he co-authored with Paul R. Ehrlch and Anne H. Ehrlich, Holdren called for a "massive" campaign to "de-develop" the United States

However, according to Holdren, Schneider saw the light and got on the global warming bandwagon - not because the theory of global cooling was proven false, but just because the theories were competing and global warming seemed to have won out.

"In the early 1970s, everybody was in doubt as to the outcome of the competition between the cooling effects of particles and, on the other hand, the warming effect of greenhouse gases," Holdren said. "And it was only with the emergence of additional data and additional analyses that it became clear that the greenhouse gases were going to win this competition. And at that point, he was one of the first to point out that, in fact, overall, we were heading for a much hotter world."

In 2007, the Business & Media Institute looked at news media coverage of climate change and found alarmism stretching back 100 years. BMI's Special Report: Fire & Ice exposed the media's warnings about impending climate doom during four different times in the last century switching from worries over global cooling to warming to cooling to warming again.