Fred Singer on the Myths of Politically Correct Science
The Daily Bell is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Dr. S. Fred Singer.
Introduction: Dr. S. Fred Singer (Siegfried Fred Singer) is an American atmospheric physicist, professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, which he founded in 1990. Dr. Singer is a prolific author, having published more than 200 technical papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals as well as editorial essays and articles that have appeared in leading publications. Front-cover stories appearing in Time, Life and US News & World Report have featured his accomplishments. Dr. Singer is author, coauthor or editor of more than a dozen books and monographs and has given hundreds of lectures and seminars on global warming, including to the science faculties at Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley and many others. He is elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Geophysical Union, American Physical Society, and American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Daily Bell: Good to meet you. Please give us some background. Where did you grow up and go to school?
Fred Singer: I grew up in Vienna, Austria, left school at the age of 13 and apprenticed at an optical machine shop. I left in 1939, crossing the border into Holland the same day Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia, on March 15, 1939. I continued to England and worked as a teenage optician in Northumberland. I joined my parents in Ohio in 1940, shortly after the London Blitz had started and after the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk.
Daily Bell: You received a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1948 in physics. Why did you get interested in physics? What kind of physics?
Fred Singer: In 1941, I was admitted to Ohio State University and studied electrical engineering; I finished in 1943 and was admitted to Princeton University as a graduate student of physics. It gave me the theoretical background for engineering. My Ph.D. came after service in the US Navy in World War 2 and dealt with cosmic rays, essentially high-energy physics.
Daily Bell: You've questioned the link between UVB and melanoma rates, and between CFCs and stratospheric ozone loss. Explain, please.
Fred Singer: The link between solar UVB and melanoma is problematic. It is possible that solar UVA is the main cause; UVA is not absorbed by ozone. However, there could be many different causes for melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. I have never questioned the connection between CFCs and stratospheric ozone loss; my only concern was whether enough CFCs entered the stratosphere to deplete ozone.
Daily Bell: You are well known for denying the health risks of passive smoking. Is passive smoke deadly? Does it cause cancer? What does cause cancer?
Fred Singer: I definitely do not deny the health risks of passive smoking but it is not as deadly as direct smoking. I would not be surprised if passive smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases. However, the analysis done by the EPA is based on poor science and is not in accord with epidemiology. Cancer is produced by all kinds of causes; smoking is definitely one of the major causes.
Daily Bell: Explain your view on global warming and climate change. What's the difference and why?
Fred Singer: Climate change includes both global warming and global cooling, as well as regional changes. It is not known to what extent human activities are responsible for climate change or global warming.
Daily Bell: Please summarize some of your books. What was Global Effects of Environmental Pollution about, for instance?
Fred Singer: My first book dealing with the climate change issue was published in 1970 with the title of Global Effects of Environmental Pollution. It was updated several years later, titled The Changing Global Environment; it is currently being digitized and reprinted by the Springer publishing company. My book The Ocean in Human Affairs deals with the science, history and other aspects of the ocean, including its influence on human exploration. Global Climate Change presents both sides of the global warming debate. My book Greenhouse Debate Continued discusses mainly the shortcomings of the IPCC report of 1990. My book Hot Talk, Cold Science (1997) and its second edition of 1999 describe the evidence against an appreciable human influence on global climate. My co-authored Climate Change Reconsidered assembles peer reviewed papers and other evidence against any appreciable human effect on climate. It can therefore be viewed as responding to the IPCC claim for AGW.
Daily Bell: Thanks. What did you do while you served in the armed forces, and in what capacity did you work in government?
Fred Singer: I enlisted in the US Navy at age 18, hoping to become a radar officer; however, the Navy decided to use me in anti-mine warfare. After the end of hostilities I was detailed to work under the mathematician John von Neumann, designing an early electronic computer.
I've held several government positions: First with the Office of Naval Research as a scientific liaison officer in Europe, then with the Department of Commerce as the first director of the weather satellite service, then at the Department of Interior as deputy assistant secretary of water quality and research, then as deputy assistant administrator of EPA and finally as the chief scientist of the Department of Transportation.
Daily Bell: You were a leading figure in early space research and established the National Weather Bureau's Satellite Service Center. How did that come about?
Fred Singer: research grew out of my high-altitude research with rockets (1946-50). I developed the idea of satellites and was then able to put them into effect as director of the weather satellite program. As a result of my experience in satellites, satellite design, instrumentation and atmospheric physics I was asked to establish the National Weather Bureau's weather satellite service, and set that up in 1962-64. From there I went to the University of Miami to set up a new school: It included oceanography, climate science − and dealt with Earth sciences generally.
Daily Bell: How did you become such a global warming skeptic? Your critics say you are irresponsible for advocating your positions. Are you?
Fred Singer: My skepticism about global warming is purely based on the observed evidence − which shows no appreciable warming while there had been large increases in greenhouse gases. I feel that scientific criticism is the most responsible sort of thing − both from the point of view of science and from the point of view of national policy.
Daily Bell: In 2006 you were named by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as one of a minority of scientists said to be creating a standoff on a consensus on climate change. Was this an unfair charge?
Fred Singer: The CBC forgot to mention that thousands of scientists hold the position that I hold and therefore not a "minority" of scientists, at least not a small minority.
Daily Bell: You argue there is no evidence that global warming is attributable to human-caused increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, and that humanity would benefit if temperatures do rise. Why do you feel this is a responsible position to take?
Fred Singer: As far as we can tell, the increase of CO2 has not been producing corresponding warming. For example, there has been no warming in the 21st century − despite the large increase of greenhouse gases.
Daily Bell: You are an opponent of the Kyoto Protocol and have said of the climate models that scientists use to project future trends that "models are very nice, but they are not reality and they are not evidence." How is it possible that so many scientists can be so wrong while you are correct?
Fred Singer: I am one of many who oppose the Kyoto Protocol, both for scientific reasons and for economic reasons. It is basically a political document, a treaty based on climate models rather than observed evidence.
Daily Bell: You have been accused of pushing "climate-denier" and "junk science" lines on behalf of large corporate interest groups. Is this fair?
Fred Singer: I have never been supported by any corporation and have therefore developed my work on climate science without any such support.
Daily Bell: The National Center for Public Policy Research lists you as someone who journalists can interview on climate change policy. Why do they offer your name?
Fred Singer: There are many organizations that list me as a source for sound science on the global warming issue.
Daily Bell: Lately, you've appeared to change your mind. You've strongly criticized those who have claimed that (a) the greenhouse effect violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics and that rising carbon dioxide levels do not cause temperatures to rise. Please explain.
Fred Singer: I am opposed to those who criticize the global warming scare, basing it on what I consider to be incorrect physics. CO2 is certainly a greenhouse gas and should produce some increase in atmospheric temperatures but it is so small we cannot detect it. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is sufficient to affect climate but the atmosphere has developed in another direction.
Daily Bell: ... that natural variations in carbon dioxide dwarf human contributions. Comment?
Fred Singer: Over geological history there has been much fluctuation − much greater than any human influences. However, over the last 100 years the source has been largely human.
Daily Bell: You are said to have had a change of heart and have lost patience with many AGW deniers. Is this true? Why?
Fred Singer: I have no use for those who oppose the IPCC based on incorrect science.
Daily Bell: In 1995, as president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (a think tank based in Fairfax, Virginia) you launched a publicity campaign about "The Top Five Environmental Myths of 1995," a list that included the US Environmental Protection Agency's conclusion that secondhand tobacco smoke is a human carcinogen. What made you come to the conclusion that the dangers of secondhand smoke are a myth?
Fred Singer: Secondhand smoke may well be a carcinogen; however, the statistical analysis carried out by EPA is full of mistakes.
Daily Bell: You've also criticized radon as fake science. Can you explain?
Fred Singer: It is the considered opinion of experts that radon in low concentration is not a carcinogen.
Daily Bell: You don't believe a hole in the ozone layer is a danger. Why not?
Fred Singer: The so-called hole in the ozone layer is a temporary thinning in the month of October in the Antarctic; I do not believe it is dangerous.
Daily Bell: You recently concluded that unchecked growth of climate-cooking pollution is "unequivocally good news." Why? Because "rising CO2 levels increase plant growth and make plants more resistant to drought and pests." Do you stand by this conclusion?
Fred Singer: Agricultural experts pretty much agree that a higher level of CO2 promotes plant growth and makes plants more resistant to droughts and pests.
Daily Bell: Why are so many false myths about science circulated? What is the agenda of those who continue to maintain that the world is warming at catastrophic levels?
Fred Singer: There are many false myths about science that circulate − usually based on insufficient expertise. I have been one of those who attacks smoking as a member of an anti-smoking organization. Cigarette smoking is definitely unhealthy. There are those who warn of catastrophic events from future warming; their aim appears to be to scare the population. I suspect that many are motivated by monetary considerations.
Daily Bell: Are islands drowning?
Fred Singer: As far as I am aware, islands are not drowning.
Daily Bell: Why have you fought this fight? You've been smeared, derided and even slandered. Has it been worth it? Will the forces of climate change win out?
Fred Singer: I think it is worth fighting for sound science even if one is smeared and slandered. My belief is the global warming scare will be over in the matter of a decade or so.
Daily Bell: Will we continue to bury carbon in the ground? Shouldn't this money be spent elsewhere for better causes?
Fred Singer: The idea of burying carbon dioxide in the ground is a bad one, and I hope we do not carry out such projects. There are much better ways of spending the money; the world is full of places that need support.
Daily Bell: Are you winning the good fight?
Fred Singer: I think we are winning a good fight.
Daily Bell: Does the sort of idiocy you've been fighting make you believe humankind is doomed?
Fred Singer: I don't think humankind is doomed, even though this has been predicted many times.
Daily Bell: Thanks!
Fred Singer is one of those people who have fought against power elite promotions like global warming because they offended his common sense and scientific background. He didn’t gain from it, necessarily, but he obviously found it difficult to keep silent.
There are many people around the world who have pushed back against elite promotions and often we don't hear about them. Often, we don't hear because such people do not have their stories told by the mainstream media. The mainstream media predictably focuses on telling stories the powers-that-be WANT to have reported.
News used to be "man bites dog" – but not in the modern era. These days, predictably one will exposed to reporting regarding gun violence, social breakdown, political superstars and the like. The dividing line between news and not-news is whether it furthers global governance or not. News supports elite internationalism these days.
Yes, whatever events support authority and denigrate the free market are often deemed newsworthy. People who support the UN's mindless charitable hypocrisy are feted. People who create profitable businesses helpful to society labor in obscurity and may be accused of various kinds of exploitation.
We're happy to bring you interviews with people like Fred Singer. You may not have heard of him – and perhaps he comes across as a bit curmudgeonly here – but he is one of the good guys when it comes to speaking out against the various idiocies of the modern age. We need more Fred Singers, not fewer. Hopefully, the Internet era is increasingly conducive to their growth.
Posted by pauloportugal on 02/03/13 10:38 AM
Great interview DB. Mr. Singer should be proud of his work and stand against oppressive powers that would rather spin scientific sophisms. Thanks for sharing him today!
Reply from The Daily Bell
Posted by bionic mosquito on 02/03/13 11:18 AM
DB: We're happy to bring you interviews with people like Fred Singer.
BM: Thank you for this.
DB: You may not have heard of him - and perhaps he comes across as a bit curmudgeonly here - but he is one of the good guys when it comes to speaking out against the various idiocies of the modern age.
BM: I had not heard of him. His brief and direct answers didn't lead me to the view of a curmudgeon, but of a scientist who honestly looks to see where the data takes him. When one is peddling scientifically based truth and not junk, there is no need to add a few hundred flowery words. Flowery words in this profession often are employed when the speaker intends to mask the junk being peddled. No need with Singer.
Posted by Howling Wolf on 02/03/13 11:23 AM
Nice to see the truth a howlin' this Sunday morning! Keep up the good fight Dr. Singer. Thanks Daily Bell!
Posted by Danny B on 02/03/13 11:56 AM
Dear Bell, I posted these yesterday on your site;
Here's another refutation that is completely blocked by MSM.
Click to view link
Here's Fox still pounding the global warming drum. They finally admit that it might not be anthropogenic.
Click to view link
I've stated here before that we are in climate change. We are always in climate change. We are currently in an unusually long inter-glacial period. The Late Holocene.
In the larger picture, you must look at current trends in falling birth rates.
As the economy worsens, people have fewer children. Carbon tax is a way to make people feel poorer and have fewer children. Kyoto was fairly effective at taking a lot of farmland out of production. 243 million acres, just in Oz,,, if memory serves. Ethanol is carbon neutral and was/is used to take land out of food production, even though it has long been proved to be a net energy loser.
From this same viewpoint, the money sequestered in CAFR causes the same effect. YES, I read Gary North on the CAFR situation. In spite of the good work he's done in other areas, his claims on the CAFR money are simplistic and idiotic.
The PTB are adamant about reducing population. Reductions in wealth and food production are accomplishing this end.
The coming crash will have a tremendous effect on birth and death rates. The PTB have a large buffet of manufactured situations to reduce population.
Posted by Martin B on 02/03/13 12:14 PM
I had not heard of Fred but he appears to be a man of integrity with the ability to chart his own course totally independent of special interests threats and intimidation. We need many more people like him today.
Posted by Danny B on 02/03/13 12:20 PM
Posted by Danny B on 02/03/13 04:03 PM
Dear Bell, you've written extensively about scarcity memes being used for control.
I agree but, only to a point. This site has a bushel load of graphs on commodities and energy.
Click to view link
The chart is a few years old but, still relevant. The colored bar graph on EROI is especially interesting.
Currently, currency inflation is being used to drive down wages. Commodity prices (tangibles) are "fixed" in relation to other commodities and energy. Wages are being driven down in relation to the fixed value of commodities.
As wages are being lowered relative to food prices, population is driven down. It isn't necessarily that commodities are scarce. They become increasingly expensive compared to dwindling wages. The scarcity memes are VERY accurate for countries like Egypt.
Oil production is falling drastically and population is rising rapidly. It's basic supply-and-demand.
Global warmers are a funny lot.
You tell them that the number ONE greenhouse gas is water vapor and their brain shifts into neutral :)
Reply from The Daily Bell
Agree about global warmers and water vapor.
Disagree about scarcity memes. You can point to numbers, but anyone can make a chart. Statistics lie, especially when they come to elite scarcity memes. Throughout modern history, we've been frightened by a variety of these issues. When we look into it, inevitably we find the products and numbes are manipulated. Facts turn into promotions. And grave warnings become propaganda.
Posted by KittyAntonikWakfer on 02/03/13 04:32 PM
It was a pleasure to see your interview with Fred Singer, with whom I've been familiar for several years. It's a good intro for those who have not read his many works and maybe only have heard of him in negative terms in mainstream media. Dr Singer is an articulate reasoning man, though I think it would be better if he (or anyone) did not use the word "believe" when he means that he has reached a conclusion via reasoned logic and/or examination of the evidence. ("I do not believe it [the Antarctic ozone layer hole] is dangerous." The words "think" or "conclude" or the phrase "I am convinced" are more appropriate and convey the use of one's reasoning faculties rather than hold as true without supporting evidence, as does the word "believe".
This may be thought of as a nit-pick, but words are important, especially when attempting to persuade others of the correctness of one's position.
Posted by piolenc on 02/03/13 08:07 PM
Whether the Anthropogenic Global Warming nonsense is opposed by one scientist or one million is irrelevant - it sets my teeth on edge to see otherwise sensible people counting noses. That isn't science. Facts are facts, no matter how many or how few recognize them.
My favorite example is the Liebig-Pasteur controversy. Liebig argued that fermentations were purely chemical phenomena, and offered scientific arguments based on valid, verifiable observations to support that theory.
Pasteur argued that the processes observed in fermentation depended on the presence of microorganisms, and therefore were attributable to those organisms even if science could not (at that time) find any mechanism by which the microbes could cause the observed effect.
Pasteur's view eventually prevailed, after he published the results of beautifully designed experiments AND after those experiments were duplicated by others. Neither scientist ever attempted to demonize the other or to accuse him of heresy, nor would either man have ever used the word "skeptic" as an insult.
Liebig's famous text on Organic Chemistry is still revered, even though it argues for a theory that is now (partially) discredited. It was a scientific argument, settled by the scientific method. Much later, when the action of extracellular enzymes was clarified, the two theories were even partly reconciled by the discovery that there is an extracellular chemical component to fermentation.
I would like to think that, even if digital computers had existed in those days, nobody would have made the mistake of conflating abstact models running within those computers with physical reality. Yet all the sins that Liebig and Pasteur avoided are Science as Usual today, and we are paying a high price for surrendering science to the fools and knaves who practice them.
Posted by David_Robertson on 02/04/13 07:27 AM
i would have liked to have known Dr. Singer's view of the "precautionary principle". It seems to me that this so called principle is the link between unsound science and public policy. If I read him correctly this would appear to be Dr. Singer's main concern, that public policy with all its attendant costs is not based on sound science.
Once the "precautionary principle" has been firmly established as a primary criterion for setting public policy goals it is inevitable that virtually any scare can be used to generate funding for all kinds of wild eyed schemes. As Dr. Singer also surmised of those who promote these memes: "I suspect that many are motivated by monetary considerations".
Posted by David_Robertson on 02/04/13 07:36 AM
"His brief and direct answers didn't lead me to the view of a curmudgeon, but of a scientist who honestly looks to see where the data takes him."
That was my view precisely. It is augmented perhaps by his age, he is 88 years old. We tend to become more direct as we age. I speak from experience.
Posted by Miner49er on 02/12/13 04:26 PM
If it takes ten years, much of America's fossil-fueled electric utility infrstructure will already have been destroyed. Trillions of dollars worth of used and useful coal mines, power plants and transmission capacity will be gone.
The Warmists are aggressively attacking these facilities through the retulatory structure at this very moment. Next, they will issue impossible-to-meet CO2 regulations against existing coal plants.
Posted by EUbrainwashing on 03/08/13 09:39 AM
Many of the folk I know and meet are deeply concerned with the effects of the so called 'greenhouse effect' or 'global warming' or its more recent title 'climate change'. I do not share their conviction that climate change, if it is occurring at the rates reported, is as a direct result of man made CO2 emissions.
I remember learning in school history lessons that people used to hold fairs on the frozen river Thames in Tudor times, that the Romans grew grapes in York and even against Hadrian's Wall between England and the wild tribes of today's Scotland. Where Britain now stands has been both tropical and under ice sheets. Climate changes I do not deny. A warming climate may produce higher historically recorded levels of CO2 as a result of increased vegetation.
I reckon that a majority of those most deeply concerned with the effect of man-made CO2 climate change are the same people who are generally concerned with the environment, wildlife, pollution, the squandering of natural resources, reduction of habitat and so on. This is my finding when I talk to such folk.
Those who are old enough to have formed opinions on such matters before the 'man-made greenhouse climate global change warming' paradigm took-off were previously, in the vast majority, all strongly anti nuclear-power yet are now, in the main, reluctantly accepting or even advocating it.
These CO2 warriors and worriers even support the plethora of 'Carbon Taxes' and 'Carbon Trading' that have been piggybacked in with the CO2 paradigm, (designed to keep governments and corporates on side with a package of benefit for them too).
Accept or not my assertion CO2 warming is a fake, public support for nuclear energy has reached a record high as policy leaders voice the 'need' for new nuclear power plants.
That has not occurred because people are now convinced nuclear power is clean and green but rather because they are told it does not contribute to global warming. Such is the power of propaganda to brainwashing the people of the world.