Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Stephen Schneider

The last major article that climatologist Stephen Schneider wrote was a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finding that some 97% of climate researchers believed in man-made climate change — and that the few who didn't weren't up to academic snuff. It was controversial and opinionated and was attacked by global-warming skeptics. In other words, vintage Schneider.

The Stanford University climatologist, who died July 19 at age 65, was a scientific warrior. As a young researcher, he entered climatology not only because it was a cutting-edge field but also because it fit his environmental ideals — "a marriage of convenience and deep conviction," he once said. In the 1970s and '80s, Schneider worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, writing hundreds of articles that buttressed the case that global warming was real and dangerous. In 1992 he moved to Stanford, and he was a major part of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

More than most of his colleagues, Schneider took the fight against climate change to the public, and he was willing to bear the bruises. For him, the planet was too important. His last book, published in 2009, was fittingly titled Science as a Contact Sport. "I've been on the ground, here in the trenches, for my entire career," he wrote. Schneider is gone too soon, but the example he set as a politically engaged scientist will endure.

Bryan Walsh

This text originally appeared in the Aug. 2, 2010 issue of TIME Magazine.