S. Fred Singer

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S. Fred Singer in 2011.
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[Singer] has testified before Congress numerous times, and is probably the most widely quoted skeptic on the ozone hole and global warming issues. Unfortunately, Dr. Singer cannot be considered an active scientist publishing in the peer-reviewed literature, or even an objective informed critic. Dr. Singer touts himself as having "published more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers over the course of his career". However, Dr. Singer's contributions to atmospheric science have been essentially zero since 1971.
—Jeffrey Masters, Ph.D. Director of Meteorology, Weather Underground[1] (No, not that Weather Underground)

Siegfried Fred Singer (September 27, 1924 - April 6, 2020) was a physicist who formerly held posts at the University of Virginia and George Mason University until 2000. He was the definition of an expert for hire.

Actual science[edit]

Early in his career, Singer did prolific work in technology and engineering. After defecting from Austria, he graduated from Princeton University 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 layer. In the 1950s and 1960s, he held various positions at governmental agencies including the EPA and NOAA. He was most famous for designing satellites, satellite instrumentation, and related technology.

Transition to corporate mouthpiece[edit]

In the 1980s and 1990s, 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).[2] 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.[3] 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 1990s. 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.[4][5] Singer, of course, denied any connection to tobacco companies. Strike two for Singer.

Climate denial, or, Singer rides again[edit]

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.[6] 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.[7] Singer went on to churn out mountains of bullshit throughout the 1990s 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.[8] And Singer's out on three consecutive strikes!

Singer had been associated with other libertarian think tanks known for their denialism at various points, including the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.[9] 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.[10]

Despite being dead wrong on every issue he wrote on since the 1980s and having his shady connections brought to light, Singer still managed 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.[11] However, it seems that his blatherskite became limited mostly to wingnut outlets like American Stinker Thinker where he continued to claim that he was right about the ozone layer, second-hand smoke, and climate change and that those who pointed out his industry ties were merely spreading conspiracy theories to discredit his magnificent work.[12]

It's tough to do, but Singer made 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.

Singer's Bad Science[edit]

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."
—S. Fred Singer, Bad Science[13]

In 1993, Singer wrote a book called Bad Science.[14] 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.

Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years[edit]

In 2007, Singer wrote a book of global warming denial with Dennis T. Avery of the Hudson Institute (updated in 2008). The book is thin on citations and most, if not all, of its arguments appear in the 2007 film, The Great Global Warming Swindle. Singer and Avery propose a variety of counter-arguments for anthropogenic global warming: either global warming isn't happening (recent higher temperature readings are caused by urban heat islands) or it's caused by solar cycles. They claim past rises in CO2 have lagged behind past rises in temperature, therefore, CO2 does not cause global warming. They also claim CO2 will become saturated and have a diminishing effect on climate.

In times past, we could have counted on skeptical scientists to blow the whistle on a fraudulent science scare. Does scientific peer review protect the public from a misguided belief in human responsibility for Earth's natural climate changes? Apparently not. Much of the news about climate change is now being produced by highly qualified scientists, using multi-million dollar supercomputers to run billion-dollar coupled global circulation models projecting unverified climate guesses a hundred years into the future—where any mistakes will be hugely amplified. Other scientists are putting up highly sophisticated satelites, running long-range aircraft to monitor atmospheric trends, packing research ships with equipment for voyages to the Antarctic—and writing scary press releases to keep the research funds flowing.
—S. Fred Singer & Dennis T. Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years, P. 116-71.
Man-made warming proponents have tried to discredit all opposition, of course. In the case of the Oregon Petition, the detractors got a few fake names added to the petition and then reported them to the media, as if this discredited the thousands of valid names.
—S. Fred Singer & Dennis T. Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years, P. 125.

External links[edit]


  • Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt. Bloomsbury Press, 2011. ISBN 1-608-19394-2