S. Fred Singer

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A former mouthpiece for the tobacco industry, the 85-year-old Singer is the granddaddy of fake "science" designed to debunk global warming.
[1]
A dirty dozen gems about

Denialism

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Not just a river in Egypt

Siegfried Fred Singer is a physicist who formerly held posts at the University of Virginia and George Mason University until 2000 and is the definition of an expert for hire.

Contents

[edit] Actual science

Early in his career, Singer did prolific work in technology and engineering. After defecting from Austria, he graduated from Princeton and served in the US Navy during the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. There, he worked on mine detection technology as well as studying atmospheric physics, concentrating on the ionosphere and the ozone. In the '50s and '60s, he held various positions at governmental agencies including the EPA and NOAA. He was most famous for designing satellites, satellite instrumentation, and related technology.

[edit] Transition to corporate mouthpiece

In the 1980s and '90s, Singer decided to sell his soul and become a corporate shill. Despite not having published on atmospheric issues since the last decade with the exception of two papers, Singer entered the ozone fray and attempted to pass himself off as a cutting-edge researcher. He decided he didn't need no steenkin' peer-review, employing the classic denialist tactic of side-stepping scientific journals to publish op-eds and give testimonies before Congress. He liberally quote mined the science on ozone depletion and claimed that the measurements were incorrect, that there had always been a hole in the ozone and it was natural. What he "forgot" to mention was that he was being heavily bankrolled by petroleum companies at the time, including Exxon and Shell, through his think tank called The Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP).[1] Singer also downplayed the threat of acid rain in his role on the Acid Rain Peer Review Panel during this period and SEPP has been labeling acid rain as a fake crisis since then. As we now know, Singer was on the wrong side of history – in 1995, the scientists who discovered the chemistry behind the ozone hole were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work.[2] Strike one.

In addition to ozone denial, Singer became involved in Philip Morris front groups as well as other tobacco-backed think tanks in the early '90s. He helped lead the charge in second-hand smoke denial. He wrote a number of articles denying or minimizing any link between second-hand smoke and cancer and accused the EPA of cooking its data when it determined that second-hand smoke posed a risk.[3][4] Singer, of course, denied any connection to tobacco companies. Strike two for Singer.

[edit] Climate denial, or, Singer rides again

Singer used SEPP to open up his final frontier of scientific denialism: Global warming. Besides funding from oil interests, SEPP was taking in money from a Moony front group.[5] Singer later decided that even he shouldn't sink that low and cut ties with them. In 1995, after the second IPCC report was released, Singer put out a bogus petition called the Leipzig Declaration. While not quite as big as the more famous Oregon Petition, it did include a number of people who denied signing it, TV meteorologists, and industry shills.[6] Singer went on to churn out mountains of bullshit throughout the '90s and 2000s through SEPP. In 2004, he set up a denialist version of the IPCC called the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). The NIPCC excreted a report primarily authored by Singer in 2008 through the conservative Heartland Institute. In the report, he managed to roll two decades' worth of crankery into one paper, citing his own junk as often as possible. On top of that it referenced nearly every piece of discredited, bogus, or outright fraudulent denialist "research" including papers by such luminaries as Steve McIntyre, Ross McKitrick, Richard Lindzen, Edward Wegman, the Idso family, Patrick Michaels, Christopher Booker, and Bjorn Lomborg. It manages to roll just about every denier talking point into one paper, from solar cycles to "CO2 is plant food!" It is truly a masterwork of denialism.[7] And Singer's out on three consecutive strikes!

Singer has been associated with other libertarian think tanks known for their denialism at various points, including the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.[8] Frederick Seitz also held a position at SEPP for some time and the two published some "research" together.

In 2009, Singer distributed a bogus climate petition asking the American Physical Society (APS) to change its stance on global warming. All he got was a bunch of signatures from other deniers and the APS subsequently blew him off.[9]

Despite being dead wrong on every issue he wrote on since the 1980s and having his shady connections brought to light, Singer still manages to be taken seriously by the media as an "expert," most likely due to their obsession with creating a false equivalence. When the Climategate story broke, Reuters allowed him to declare victory for skeptics deniers and do a little victory dance in their news outlet.[10] However, it seems that his blatherskite nowadays is limited mostly to wingnut outlets like American Stinker Thinker where he still claims he was right about the ozone layer, second-hand smoke, and climate change, and that those pointing out his industry ties are merely spreading conspiracy theories to discredit his magnificent work.[11]

It's tough work, but Singer makes guys like McIntyre seem almost honest in comparison. Singer is thought to be responsible for the destruction of thousands of bullshit detectors, possibly being even more shilltacular than Steve Milloy.

[edit] Singer's Bad Science

Too often, science is manipulated to fulfill a political agenda. Science that is used to guide public policy must be based on sound science -- not on emotions or beliefs that are viewed by some as "politically correct."[12]

In 1993, Singer wrote a book called Bad Science.[13] The tract is essentially a how-to guide for bullshitters. In it, he claims that science has been hijacked by liberal do-gooders seeking to impose their will on people through the tyranny of the EPA and other governmental bodies. He muddies the waters by mixing media-driven health scares with actual health and environmental problems (indeed, much of his "research" includes newspaper clippings from the likes of Investor's Business Daily). It is quite a good read if you want to see the typical rhetorical techniques and memes of the anti-environmental movement packed into a single publication. It often includes weapons-grade projection as in the quote above, in which he masterfully invokes sound science.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Skeptics vs.the Ozone Layer
  2. Press release: The 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  3. A 1994 paper by Singer on second-hand smoke
  4. Junking Science to Promote Tobacco
  5. Wingnuts in Sheep's Clothing
  6. How many climate scientists support the "Leipzig Declaration"?, Natural Science
  7. Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate
  8. Some of Singer's articles at Cato and CEI
  9. Another Silly Climate Petition Exposed
  10. We are winning the Science Battle
  11. Secondhand Smoke, Lung Cancer, and the Global Warming Debate
  12. Bad Science by Fred Singer, archived at the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library
  13. No relation to the book or blog by Ben Goldacre. In fact, they are diametric opposites.
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