Skip navigation

Stephen H. Schneider

Stephen H. Schneider was Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and Professor of Biology at Stanford University. He was also Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC's working group on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from 1997 to 2001, and, with his IPCC colleagues, was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in 2007. He was the author or editor of many books, including Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth's Climate and Scientists Debate Gaia: The Next Century (MIT Press, 2004).

Titles by This Author

Global momentum is building to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So far, so good. The less happy news is that Earth’s temperatures will continue to rise for decades. And evidence shows that climbing temperatures are already having serious consequences for vulnerable people and regions through droughts, extreme weather, and melting glaciers. In this book, climate experts Michael Mastrandrea and Stephen Schneider argue that we need to start adapting to climate change, now. They write that these efforts should focus primarily on identifying the places and people most at risk and taking anticipatory action--from developing drought-resistant crops to building sea walls. The authors roundly reject the idea that reactive, unplanned adaptation will solve our problems--that species will migrate northward as climates warm, and farmers will shift to new crops and more hospitable locations. And they are highly critical of “geoengineering” schemes that are designed to cool the planet by such methods as injecting iron into oceans or exploding volcanoes. Mastrandrea and Schneider insist that smart adaptation will require a series of local and regional projects, many of them in the countries least able to pay for them and least responsible for the problem itself. Ensuring that we address the needs of these countries, while we work globally to reduce emissions over the long term, is our best chance to avert global disaster and to reduce the terrible, unfair burdens that are likely to accompany global warming.

Titles by This Editor

The Next Century

Scientists Debate Gaia is a multidisciplinary reexamination of the Gaia hypothesis, which was introduced by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the early 1970s. The Gaia hypothesis holds that Earth's physical and biological processes are linked to form a complex, self-regulating system and that life has affected this system over time. Until a few decades ago, most of the earth sciences viewed the planet through disciplinary lenses: biology, chemistry, geology, atmospheric and ocean studies. The Gaia hypothesis, on the other hand, takes a very broad interdisciplinary approach. Its most controversial aspect suggests that life actively participates in shaping the physical and chemical environment on which it depends in a way that optimizes the conditions for life. Despite intial dismissal of the Gaian approach as New Age philosophy, it has today been incorporated into mainstream interdisciplinary scientific theory, as seen in its strong influence on the field of Earth System Science. Scientists Debate Gaia provides a fascinating, multi-faceted examination of Gaia as science and addresses significant criticism of, and changes in, the hypothesis since its introduction.

In the book, 53 contributors explore the scientific, philosophical, and theoretical foundations of Gaia. They address such topics as the compatibility of natural selection and Gaian processes, Gaia and the "thermodynamics of life," the role of computer models in Gaian science (from James Lovelock's famous but controversial "Daisyworld" to more sophisticated models that use the techniques of artificial life), pre-Socratic precedents for the idea of a "Living Earth," and the climate of the Amazon Basin as a Gaian system.

The Gaia hypothesis suggests that life is an active participant in shaping the physical and chemical environment on which it depends. Scientists on Gaia is a multidisciplinary exploration of this controversial hypothesis, which was introduced by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the early 1970s. Forty-four contributions detail the philosophical, empirical, and theoretical foundations of Gaia, mechanisms through which planet-wide homeostasis could occur, applicability of the hypothesis to planets other than Earth, possible destabilization by outside forces, and public policy implications.

Stephen H. Schneider, a climatologist, is Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado. Penelope J. Boston, a biologist, is a founder of Complex Systems Research, Lafayette, Colorado.