Stephen Schneider Takes on a Roomful of Climate Change Deniers

Stephen Schneider was Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University, a Co-Director at the Center for Environment Science and Policy of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Senior Fellow in the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Schneider served as a consultant to federal agencies and White House staff under several American presidential  administrations. In other words, an expert on climate change. Watch as he answers the questions of a room full of climate change deniers on the SBS Insight show. Keep in mind this was aired in 2010.

  • BuzzCoastin

    Stephen Schneider Takes on a Roomful of Climate Change Deniers

    nothing done on an individual level
    will make a dent on the warming trend

    when this dude shuts down big oil
    that’s news
    when he takes on individuals with no power
    he’s adding methane to the atmosphere

    • bobbiethejean

      How can you say that? Individuals make up society. Society is what will eventually be moved to enact these changes by voting or even outright demanding change. But if we don’t convince people on an individual level, society as a whole remains unconvinced and nothing changes.

      • BuzzCoastin

        society has the collective intelligence of a brute animal
        name one major beneficial change effected by society
        by the time society gets around to it
        it’s already too late

        but since you’re all for this dude’s talk
        lemme ask you, do you walk the walk?
        got a car? use grid electricity? grow any of your food?
        do anything at all to reduce your dependence
        on the grid & industrial food?

        talk is cheap
        actions speak louder than words

        • bobbiethejean

          name one major beneficial change effected by society

          That question is so profoundly stupid, I don’t even know where to begin answering it. I mean wow. You can’t possibly be THAT daft? Humans are a social species. Pretty much everything we’ve accomplished has been effected by society because WE ARE society.

          got a car?use grid electricity?

          I have solar panels on my house, I share a car with my GF, I recycle, and I do everything I can to reduce my impact while still being able to participate in a technological, modern world. You can’t fault me for using these technologies. They are necessary to participate in this current environment. Nevertheless, I hope that as a society we can move towards energy efficiency, away from fossil fuels, and towards a more environmentally sustainable model.

          • BuzzCoastin

            > Pretty much everything we’ve accomplished has been effected by society

            pretty much everything wee accomplished
            was in service to some elite with a vision of greed
            left to our own devices, wee’d still be in The Garden
            everything isn’t a name for anything
            mass movements usually do more harm than good
            especially if the whole herd gets behind it

            but at least yer walkin the talk

          • bobbiethejean

            You’re very cynical. : I’m sorry about whatever the fuck happened to you to make you so damned cynical but I mean, come on. That can’t be true. Look at Nikola Tesla. Look how much he gave us and you can’t argue he was doing it out of greed. He gave his discoveries and inventions away completely free! Ok, sure, he was one of a kind but many inventors and developers out there have given us a great many things NOT in the service of greed.

            I’m not going to say you’re entirely wrong because you’re not. A lot has been done in the name of greed, corporate manifest-destiny, and selfishness. But it’s not all like that.

          • BuzzCoastin

            was the boy who pointed out the Emperor was naked a cynic?
            than I’m a cynic

            Tesla was not a “society” and his inventions
            were thwarted by a “society” of greed

            the herd can never be smarter than an individual
            the herd can only be as smart as their stupidest member
            when the herd is heading one way
            I am sure to head in the opposite direction

          • bobbiethejean

            There’s a difference between pointing out that the naked emperor has no clothes and pointing at an albeit scantily clad emperor and claiming he has no clothes.

            Your initial point was “name one beneficial thing society has accomplished” to which I would say we would not be here if we weren’t a society. Every genius, every inventor, developer, creator, and trail-blazer benefited from living in a society. They were only able to do what they could do BECAUSE they partook of society’s resources. Tell me how many great things were invented by hermits who never made use of any societal resources. For every one you can name, I can come up with twenty, infinitely better examples of geniuses who were only ever able to do what they did because society was there to buttress them.

          • BuzzCoastin

            Every genius, every inventor, developer, creator, and trail-blazer benefited from living in a society.

            you mean like Socrates, Galileo, Copernicus, Tesla & Turing?
            to name a few

            creative individuals
            sometimes called artists, sometimes eccentric
            and never really embraced by “society” until they’re dead
            and are often persecuted & censored by society

            society has brought us revolution & war lords
            most humans live under the oppression of the impression
            that that life short. brutish & harsh
            reinforced by the conventions of the society they live in
            never really knowing true freedom or enjoying life

            sorry dude, society is a collection of brute animals
            individuals are above the herd in creative comprehension

          • bobbiethejean

            All of those people you named made use of societal resources to accomplish their goals. They climbed stairs and reached new heights, yes, but those stairs were built by society. Yes, society can betray as well, of course, as it betrayed Alan Turing and Socratese, as it is betraying us right now in so many ways. I don’t deny that. I never did deny that because I am a flexible thinker who can objectively assess the good and bad of things. You, on the other hand, seem to be suffering extreme myopia as you refuse to see any good that society has to offer.

            If you think society is so terrible and has so little to offer, imagine an alternate history in which Tesla was born in a cave and never had any interaction with any other human beings (we’ll assume he magically didn’t die as an infant for hypothetical purposes). Firstly, we know what kind of effects that can have on humans. They usually turn out to be functionally retarded because humans are a SOCIAL species. He would not have been able to speak or read and his ability to learn would have been permanently stunted. But no. Tesla was able to make use of societal resources through which he learned to read, do math, and speak. I’m sure he lived in a building and access to equipment which were NOT built or made by himself.

            Not everything is so black and white as you seem to think.

          • BuzzCoastin

            I gonna go out on a limb and guess
            you ain’t bin rubbin shoulders wid Joe & Jane Sixpak
            at WalMart or Micky D’z
            Orwell called them the Proles
            these people are the bedrock of creativity?
            or the Outer Party members
            do they facilitate things like the Internet
            or Global Warming?
            that’s all done by elites
            Michelangelo, elite employee
            Turing, elite employee
            Tesla, elite employee
            ok, Socrates was an elite
            but he didn’t aspire to it`
            but nonetheless
            Joe & Jane Sixpak were not involved
            Joe Six did not decide to build the Pyramids
            but he did build them according to plan

  • salviad

    I like this guy. Quiet cool.

  • Calypso_1

    I love when then audience member tries to break out the CO2 logarithm after saying an oceanic pH change of 0.1 is insignificant.
    Perhaps she’s like to try & weather a long term metabolic pH change of that amount.

    • Simon Valentine

      yeah she should drop acid and yell “climate change is putrid,
      impudent sepsis!”

  • marshall

    I will admit, I only watched 17 minutes of it, but in that time no one talked about science. Even Schneider used dumb analogies that have nothing to do with science to talk about science. Why did nobody bring up the methodological failure of AGW researchers by using causal-correlating data and labeling it as empirical? Why did nobody talk about falsifiying evidence? Why did no one bring up Zionists reptile moon beam projectors? Bah!

    • bobbiethejean

      Communicating extremely complex ideas to ordinary people sometimes requires, to be blunt, a dumbing down of certain concepts. I think this man did a decent job communicating with a scientifically illiterate audience.

      • marshall

        Comparing a bathtub overflowing to the carbon cycle of the earth is preposterous. Continuously saying “your wrong, and I’m right because I’m a scientist and you’re not” (paraphrasing here) makes him just as dumb as the dumbest person in the audience. I am just saying it’s unfortunate that nobody questioned climate change scientists’ methodological approach to the issue, as it has been proven to be highly flawed, and there is literally no climate change scientist to this day that can counter those flawed methods. The evidence is good, but all of it can be falsified by other forms of evidence. That’s the issue we have came to in the global debate, especially when vast, cultural and life changing policy and law are concerned.

        • bobbiethejean

          Continuously saying “your wrong, and I’m right because I’m a scientist and you’re not

          Never at any point did he say anything that could even be hintingly paraphrased like that and furthermore, stating that he is as dumb as the dumbest person in the audience just makes you look silly. You don’t get to be a scientist if you’re stupid unless you got your degree out of a crackerjack box-university and this guy clearly did not.

          as it has been proven to be highly flawed,

          No it really hasn’t.

          but all of it can be falsified by other forms of evidence.

          Oh please do tell. What such evidence?

          • marshall

            In case the hyperlink doesn’t work, it is:

            “A methodological note on the making of causal statements in the debate on anthropogenic global warming” by Jarl Kampen, Oct. 2010. Everything you need to know is in this paper, and so far is the definitive answer on the subject. And yes, there are many forms of evidence that falsify conventional AGW evidence, one being tree ring analysis of past interglacial periods which falsifies the 440 ppm theory, and changes in the sun’s average temperature and energy output that has warmed the earth’s average temperature over the past 6,000 years.

  • rtb61

    One thing you seem to need to always explain to the stupids is. Who gives a crap what happens one hundreds thousands or a million years ago.
    We have billions living on coastal cities and we can not afford warming or major sea level rise and everything necessary needs to be done to prevent it.
    So study what is causing it ‘NOW’ and make a correction.
    Don’t forget the Audience is not representative of Australians, just representative of Australian Stupids.

    • ishmael2009

      Sadly, most people just won’t accept the level of change that would be require. Look at the resistance to nuclear power, for example, without which we have no hope at all of seriously reducing global carbon emissions. Superstition and lack of understanding trump reason too often.

    • NHGuy73

      If you are just outright ignoring millions of years of data, what kind of science do you have exactly? Rejecting data and then accusing your opposition of stupidity seems a bit short sighted.
      The proponents of anthropogenic change need to act more like adults in the debate. Passion can be good. Name calling is not, and there seems to be quite a bit of it. Outright dismissal of data that may put previous assumptions into question also weakens your points. That is no longer science and becomes about your belief system. At that point you may as well begin debating the sum of angels dancing on the heads of pins.

  • Lookinfor Buford

    No need to listen to evangelists, just read.. where you at, Liam? Let’s talk statistics..

  • doodahman

    I don’t know about the “deniers” he took on. I’d like to see him take on skeptical experts here and see how he does. My guess is not so well.

  • gelikeasics

    “Every time a man sets himself to learn, he has to labor as hard as anyone can, and the limits of his learning are determined by his own nature. Therefore, there is no point in talking about knowledge. Fear of knowledge is natural; all of us experience it, and there is nothing we can do about it. But no matter how frightening learning is, it is more terrible to think of a man without knowledge..”

  • Sean

    I have mild…very mild…doubts.
    BUT….the science is massively complex and anyone who doesn’t study this is fooling themselves if they think they can surmise the truth without a hint of education on the subject.

    The sheer fact that Climate Change deniers are often ALSO Evolution by Natural Selection deniers….gives me ample reason to suspect their motives.
    These people are often 100% certain….another thing that gives me pause. If you’re THAT certain, it makes me question your motives as well. Anyone THAT certain seems to have a deep need…a desire…to believe as they do, despite any evidence to the contrary.

    If evolution is true(and it is), it challenges the deep beliefs of some people…so, they reject it.
    If climate change is true, it also will force us to accept responsibility to avert our own extinction…a task so astoundingly large that it would require a total paradigm shift….something many aren’t comfortable with…and so, they reject it for something more comforting to believe in.

    Also, many religious people seem to have this idea that their god will swoop down and fix everything before it gets too out of hand. Hell, almost HALF of Americans actually think Jesus will return in THEIR own lifetime….and the world will end. If that’s the case, why bother with ANY environmentalism…at all?

    Of course, when Jesus doesn’t come back, the children of these people will find themselves with a pretty massive problem to fix. A problem they didn’t even create. I suspect future generations(many not yet born) will hold a deep well of resentment for our current generation of homo-sapiens…too proud, arrogant, and afraid to address this problem before it’s too late.

    Though….it may well be far too late. Sadly, I honestly think the next 100 years are going to be a massively challenging right of passage for humanity. Billions may die.

    The only…and I mean ONLY…hope I have…is in the technological singularity. The exponential evolution of technology. If the crisis is finally seen to be so obvious that everyone admits it’s real….that will unleash the sort of will-power that sent humans to the moon. If we really truly want, or NEED, to do something….we can, and will, do it.

    In that sense, the next 50 – 100 years may well be looked back on as the moment when the human species finally matured….setting the stage for the full flowering of our species’ potential. The generations of the 22nd Century will either look back on us with spite and anger….or with admiration and respect.

    Given human history over the past 8,000 years….I think we’ll be ok in the long run. But….before we make it all ok…we’ll first have to go through a period of intense suffering. Think about it. There is NO challenge humans have not overcome. Not one. But…we only overcome them once the pain of not changing becomes more unbearable than the pain of changing. We require that pain to motivate right action. Always have, probably always will.

  • Sean

    The solipsism of some of these people is astounding.
    They’ll raise “concerns” that are clearly right out of the talking points memos of deniers and radio talk show hosts.
    They raise these “concerns” with an air of “haha…gotcha! Bet you haven’t considered THAT, huh?”

    As if what these people are bringing up is completely new to the scientists.
    It’s the same with Creationists. They’ll say something like, “According to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, Evolution is not possible. Ha…see, Got ya!”

    Right….like scientists haven’t even thought of that. The answer is, biological life AND the Earth itself is a closed system. In a closed system that has an energy input(like the sun, tidal forces, or tectonic drift) entropy can reverse itself….and that is precisely what life is: a reversal of entropy within a closed system.

    Or, the Creationists might say, “Ha! How about this: Carbon dating only works back to about 10,000 years. So, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to claim anything is older than 10,000 years old.”
    Of course, that is only ONE of MANY methods of dating…and no scientists would even think to use an inadequate dating method on something that old.

    There’s also irreducible complexity…which has been thoroughly dismantled by scientists….and many many more “objections” posed by the Evolution deniers.

    It’s nothing but a bunch of scientifically illiterate people talking in a condescending and arrogant manner to humble modest people who work extremely hard to be as honest and evidence-based as is possible. The sheer arrogance of going head-to-head with someone who lives and breathes the science by throwing out tidbits and sound-bites you got from Wikipedia, Answers In Genesis, or Bill O’Reilly is obscene and annoying to the highest degree.

    It shows just how patient and nice most scientists are that they don’t throw up their hands and say, “To hell with you people. You’re all idiots. Go ahead…believe whatever feels good. But, if you get in trouble…don’t come running to us for help. Screw you guys….I’m going home.”

  • Sean

    The look on that yuppie soccer mom’s face at 7:08 couldn’t be more annoying.
    She thinks the 4 hours of research she did on Wikipedia and passive Fox News viewing is equivalent to a lifetime of daily research under the most stringent empirical demands.

    She has NO IDEA how science works or what it is. I bet if you asked her to merely describe the steps of the scientific method….she would have a blank look….and THEN, she would claim it’s been “scientifically proven that the scientific method is a hoax”….whatever that means.

    The look on her face is a look of “How dare you tell me my beliefs aren’t correct. My parents said I can be anything in the world I want to be…and I want to be right. So I am right. And you’re saying I’m wrong…and that makes me angry. So…I’m rubber, you’re glue…whatever you say, bounces off of me and sticks on to you!”

  • Sean


    Ha! She perfectly summed up why she opposes the idea of Climate Change.
    After the scientist perfectly elucidated the reason she was wrong….the host asked if that answered her question.

    She said, “Um….well…I’ve heard that before but….uh…if it is true, we’d have to change our economic system and that would be super duper hard. So…I’d rather stick my fingers in my ears.”

    She has ZERO interest in the facts. She’s only interested in living however she wants to live…facts be damned. It’s the same with people who think we can use Petroleum indefinitely. The facts are too damn scary to admit….so it’s better to stick our heads in the sand, live as we always have, and hope our kids will forgive our idiocy.

  • Sean

    He answered it quite lucidly…but that guy simply could not, or would not, understand it.
    How on earth was his answer confusing…at all?
    What an asshat that guy was….

  • Sean

    “You said the ph level of the oceans is only going down by 1/10th of a point….what’s the big deal? It sounds alarmist to me….that worries me.”
    Such solipsistic human-centered dismissal.

    Nature is profoundly balanced. Even the slightest change has HUGE HUGE ramifications on an ecosystem.
    Fish that evolved to live in a certain ph balance…well, THEY don’t think 1/10th of a point change is “not a big deal.”
    It’s enough to kill some species.

    Her whole point is, “Well, in my day to day human life, things seem fine….so, why worry?” What a narrow minded approach.

    I’ve even heard some people say, “Well….if global temperatures go up by just 1 degree….so what? That’s like saying a day that is 81 degrees instead of 80 degrees is a big deal….it’s not. You can hardly notice the difference.”

    Again….nothing but human-centered thinking. A 1 degree change in global temperature is MASSIVE. Utterly massive. If global temperature goes up by a mere 7 degrees….we’d go extinct. 7 degrees might not sound like a big deal. 87 degrees instead of 80….who cares, right?

    Well….just wait. We may well get to see just how bad that would be.

    As for her “that’s alarmist…stop that!” comment…..come on.
    Alarmist? Yeah….for good reason. Sometimes the alarm should be sounded. You might WANT to live in a peachy-keen a-OK world….but reality doesn’t care what you want.

    If an asteroid was headed toward the Earth, I bet some of these people would stick their heads in the sand and say, “Stop being so alarmist. Asteroids are natural. They happened all the time in the past. I want to watch Netflix and eat Ice Cream…I don’t need to be bothered with all this alarmist scary stuff. Stop scaring me! I don’t like it!”

    • ishmael2009

      Which textbooks did you read in college? I did Zoology, and one of the first things we were taught was that the “balance” theory of nature was decades out of date. Nature is all about imbalance, chaos, and surging life finding a niche – how would evolution work if the natural state (whatever that means) was balance? Nature works by what ecologists call “dynamic disequilibrium” – population boom and bust, cycles of growth and decay. Not by mystical harmony, appealing as that image might be.

      • Sean

        I see what you’re saying….and I agree. But I also disagree.
        You’re right…nature is not always in balance. It never is.
        BUT….it’s always striving toward balance. The whole universe is…literally.
        If true 100% balance existed, nothing would happen. Time would literally cease to be. There’d be no motion or change or evolution.
        But….life and ecosystems are constantly striving toward harmony with each other. Life seeks to adapt to nature as well as it can. As it does this, it changes nature…which then causes the balance to shift…which then causes life to seek the balance again.

        And every now and then, something huge happens. A meteor hits the Earth, for instance….throwing things WAY off balance. But then…life strives toward equilibrium yet again.

        It’s like all of reality is seeking a goal that it can never attain….like a horse chasing a carrot on a stick.

        The issue with Climate Change is….human activity evolves at a FAR faster rate than global planetary evolution. If 3% more CO2 is added in the air….the Earth will indeed seek to balance that out. But it may take 100 or 1,000 or 1Million years. But when humans pump in 3% more every single year….the balance cannot be retrieved in the short term.

        Life is all about a balance between 100% chaos and 100% harmony.

        Actually, many physicists speak of the Big Bang as a “symmetry breaking event.” Somehow(we don’t know how or why yet) reality became almost infinitely asymmetrical….100% chaotic. As the universe has cooled and expanded, pools of balance have built on top of each other to create the complexity we see today.

        But the universe is always moving toward 100% balance. In 1 Trillion years, or so, the universe will become SO expanded, SO cold, and SO diluted that eventually absolute zero….permanent stasis…will be attained. The energy of the universe will come to a halt. And the universe will become a pure undifferentiated void.

        On this topic, I highly HIGHLY recommend the following website:

        It’s a compilation of the writings of the late theoretical physicist Gevin Giorbran. His ideas are utterly brilliant….and help explain Cosmological Evolution in really lucid terms. I couldn’t recommend that website highly enough.

        “Opposites are not contra- dictory but complementary.”
        —Niels Bohr

        “Where did the substance of the universe come from? . . If 0 equals ( + 1) + (-1), then something which is 0 might just as well become + 1 and -1. Perhaps in an infinite sea of nothingness, globs of positive and negative energy in equal-sized pairs are constantly forming, and after passing through evolutionary changes, combining once more and vanishing. We are in one of these globs between nothing and nothing and wondering about it.”
        —Isaac Asimov

        “The One has never known measure and stands outside of number, and so is under no limit either in regard to anything external or internal; for any such determination would bring something of the dual into it.”

        “There are waves on the vacuum sea corresponding to every conceivable quantum, even those we have not yet discovered. All of physics – everything we hope to know – is waiting in the vacuum to be discovered. Everything that ever existed or can exist is already potentially there in the nothingness of space.”
        —Heinz Pagels

        • ishmael2009

          I see what you mean. What you’ve described there is essentially “dynamic disequilibrium” which is a theory advanced by ecologist Daniel Botkin and others. I think it makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels. The fact is, nature is hugely disruptive and almost seems to thrive on that, but it does also seem to want to return to a steady state.Thanks for the link, am reading it now.

  • ishmael2009

    This is less straightforward than it might appear to be. Schneider was one of the scientists famously predicting cooling and perhaps even a new ice age, before temperatures stopped falling and started climbing again, After which, he changed his position and forecast warming – publicly acknowledging his previous stance, much to his credit.

    Climate science is much more advanced now than it was then, and the top scientists predicting an incipient ice age were making their best estimates. But it does show that the state of scientific knowledge does change (of course) and that yesterday’s certainties become tomorrow’s false steps towards greater understanding.

  • Judy Cross

    A real “Climate Change Denier” is someone who refuses to recognize the climate changes by itself…Humans don’t have anything to do with it. See: “It’s The Sun Stupid, the minor significance of CO2.” by Dr. Norman Page.