Schneider, who authored the 2009 book Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate, was a central figure in last year’s so-called “Climategate” affair. He defended his fellow scientists against the onslaughts of conservative media pundits, and called those who sent the scientists hate mail “cowards.” Schneider told Stanford Magazine that the affair might have delayed the enactment of climate legislation in the U.S. by a few years. While he expressed hope that the current “generation of kids” would “make a difference” in the country’s environmental future, however, he was less certain about its current government (and reporters), saying:
The bad news is the Congress is starting to act like the media. They’re looking like they’re such a deeply broken, short-term-focused institution that the average Senator defines the national interest by the powerful constituencies in the state. How about the country? Planetary interest? Not even on the radar screen. So what we end up with, often, is the best Congress that money can buy.
Getting around that impasse will, of course, be no easy feat, and there is no saying for sure that Schneider would have witnessed the breakthrough had he lived another ten years. But he did his part—for science and for journalism—in the time he had.
“It would be worthwhile for scientists, citizens, and reporters to better understand each other’s paradigms,” he once wrote on Mediarology. “We live in complex and confusing times, and rationality (that is, knowing enough about what might happen and how likely it is, and being willing to change our current beliefs given challenging new evidence) is the only way to clearly define our values when it is time to make policy — and that is the job of all citizens, including journalists and scientists.”