Today, by sheer willpower, I was able to sit through a "presentation" by the old global warming denier Fred Singer without crapping my pants. This presentation was mainly to undergrads at Stanford, where Old Fred is currently a "Hoover Institution research fellow." Fred Singer is of course quite an old man, 83 years old, which he didn't try to hide. In fact, he kicked off his ad hominem attacks by trying a takeoff on the old saw, "don't trust anyone between thirty and eighty." This caveat was supposed to apply to the IPCC scientists. He further counseled the Stanford students not to trust "the government." By this he was trying to call the IPCC "the government" (though surely Fred (and I hope) the students knew that the IPCC is not a governmental body). Fred portrayed himself, on the other hand, as a scientist, academic and sometime government employee who knew not to trust the "government." What bunk....OUR GOVERNMENT'S POSITION ON GLOBAL WARMING IS FRED'S POSITION, for God's sake....I think the students may have seen through that one.
Anyway, a scientist, an academic, a government worker, he once was. But not for a while, now. Unfortunately, Fred was not so forthcoming about who's been putting money in his pocket these last 13 years. That disappointed me, because it is customary in academic circles, before giving a lecture, to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. Fred has some, but didn't, however, choose to let us know that.
Do we think old Fred is just living off his pension? Do we think it's improper to ask? It shouldn't be...Singer himself opened by the door by saying that he should be trusted over the IPCC scientists. At least in the medical sciences, statements of potential conflict of interest are REQUIRED of those who provide teaching for doctors. In light of recent events, I'm sure the Stanford Medical School has such requirements. Does the rest of the University? Those who don't consider past conduct as a guide to present acts, and who ignore the influence of the almighty dollar, are deluding themselves, and inviting deception from others.
As was his wont, Fred Singer did not discuss his past behaviors and sources of support. His record suggests he tries to conceal this information:
In a February 2001 letter to the Washington Post, Singer denied receiving funding from the oil industry, except for consulting work some 20 years prior. SEPP, however, received multiple grants from ExxonMobil, including 1998 and 2000. In addition, Singer's current CV on the SEPP website states that he served as a consultant to several oil companies. The organizations Singer has recently been affiliated with - Frontiers of Freedom, ACSH, NCPA, etc. - have recieved generous grants from Exxon on an annual basis.
but a little research can yield a lot of information. More on Dr. Singer's hidden Exxon funding can be found here. This site has information on Dr. Singer's links to Big Coal. Newsweek has been so "rude" (see www.newsweek.com/id/32482/page/1) as to publish reports that Old Fred plotted his collaboration with Big Oil as far back as 1998. Fred, of course, has also taken "scientific" stands suspiciously similar to those of Dupont in the days when the role of fluourocarbons on the ozone layer were being debated, and had ties to Big Tobacco while denying harmful effects of second-hand smoke). Those who would like more information on Fred's infamous past might like to go here.
1993 and 1994 were busy moments in the life of S. Fred Singer. During this period of time Singer was using offices provided by Sun Myung Moon ("moonies") moving his "Science and Environmental Policy Project" ("SEPP") to George Mason University -- Institute for Human Studies, orchestrating the "Heidelberg Appeal" to counter the Union of Concerned Scientists' "Appeal to Humanity", organizing two corrupt science reports published by Alexis de Tocqueville Institution attacking the EPA, participating in the Tobacco Institute "Whitecoats Project", and co-hosting two fraudulent science gatherings.
One of these science gatherings called "Scientific Integrity in the Public Policy Process", was co-sponsored by International Center for Scientific Ecology ("ICSE") and SEPP, both which were S. Fred Singer front organizations, held May 24-25th, 1993, at the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Singer, already in the employ of the Whitecoats Project, was globally known to tobacco executives around the world.
Back to Dr. Singer's talk at Stanford: Instead of divulging his links to concerned industry, Fred chose the rhetoric of attacking the other side, on a personal and professional basis, questioning the trustworthiness and competence of the IPCC and its contributing members. He took off on Al Gore and the glacial melting images, saying that warming wasn't the question, acting as though he and everyone else had always accepted that warming was occurring, when in fact, Singer railed against the fact of global warming at least until 2003.
The IPCC claim, that the climate is currently warming, is based solely on surface thermometer data. It is contradicted not only by superior observations from weather satellites  but also by independent data from radiosondes carried on weather balloons. In addition, proxy (non-thermometer) data from tree rings, ice cores, etc. confirm that there is no current warming . [emphasis added]
· The IPCC claim that the 20th century was the warmest in the past 1000 years is based entirely on a misuse of such proxy data. Two Canadian scientists have just published a detailed audit that exposes a shocking set of errors; it permits anyone to independently verify their counter-claim .
"Climate concern is just a tax ruse," Letter to the Editor by Dr. S. Fred Singer
Financial Times 11/26/03:
"The irony is that there is no convincing evidence that the global climate is actually warming...Mr Gore and company are stirring the pot, trying to create public anxiety in order to impose a form of energy rationing on the economy
At this point, Singer finally divulged his "gotcha" criticism of anthropogenic global warming: he carelessly tossed up two slides from the IPCC report, one was the model-generated idea of the shape of tropospheric warming, the other was the actual data. They didn't look alike, though they did agree that the troposphere is warming. The model didn't exactly fit the observed data. Oh, that would be new in modeling, wouldn't it? NOT. (the general course of his remarks can be followed at his website).
One enterprising student noted that the axes were different. whoops. To old Fred, whatever it showed, that was enough to throw out CO2 as the bad actor in this global warming scheme.
He said, in response to a question, that the 2500-odd scientists who wrote the IPCC report had "no evidence" that warming was due to CO2. NO EVIDENCE. His words.
And what, pray tell, Old Fred, might be a better candidate than CO2? Well, I almost hesitate to say it; I almost believed I didn't hear it. But I did: as he said in this interview with the Ely, NV Times, Fred's candidate is ....cosmic rays.
Q: When you say global warming is natural, what is your chief culprit?
A: The sun. The sun. Definitely. The evidence we have shows an extremely strong correlation with solar activity. The (Earth's) temperature follows the solar activity and the correlation is very strong. The mechanism itself is still under some dispute, but we think in some way the sun influences cosmic rays, which in turn influences cloudiness.
Q: That doesn't even count the heat output of the sun, which changes over time, doesn't it?
A: Those are very small and are not enough to account for all the climate changes that we see. What is causing it is not just the heat of the sun, but emissions from the sun that we don't see -- except with satellites and spacecraft -- the so-called solar winds and magnetic fields.
Yes, the debunked cosmic ray theory; but Fred said he "knows about cosmic rays because that's what he did [his] doctoral thesis on." And this sad stuff outweighs, in Fred Singer's mind, the IPCC scientists and their report. You remember, those 2500 guys who are over thirty but less than eighty....?
Now, there is a chain of rationales here; cosmic rays have been linked to atmospheric particle formation which can lead to cloud formation which can lead theoretically to either more or less warming. But there is no correlation between solar activity and recent climate change. A relevant study can be found here, showing the data:
There are many interesting palaeoclimate studies that suggest that solar variability had an influence on pre-industrial climate. There are also some detection–attribution studies using global climate models that suggest there was a detectable influence of solar variability in the first half of the twentieth century and that the solar radiative forcing variations were amplified by some mechanism that is, as yet, unknown. However, these findings are not relevant to any debates about modern climate change. Our results show that the observed rapid rise in global mean temperatures seen after 1985 cannot be ascribed to solar variability, whichever of the mechanisms is invoked and no matter how much the solar variation is amplified.
Further, if you would like to read some analysis of the foul smell emanating from cosmic ray "research", go here.
Fred, having tossed out something that passed as science, moved quickly on beyond the science to show his true colors, a virtual sockpuppet for (on this occasion) the fossil fuel industry:
* "global warming is actually good,
* "even if it isn't good you can't do anything about it," and
* "if you could do something about it, it would hurt the poor.
he wants us to continue burning fossil fuels, that is his message, come near-hell or literal high water. (By the way, in case you wanted to know, the gates of Stanford are about forty feet above sea level. )
Sorry, Fred, I have to go with the other 2500 IPCC scientists; their models may not be perfect, but at least their ideas don't remind me of bad science fiction movies. Even non-scientists like Al Gore have been more on the mark than you have.
It was hard to get a reading on the students' reaction to Singer. One or two were actually prepared to counter some of his specious claims. There were the usual sycophants, one of whom tossed out the "important" contributions of volcanos; I hope that guy gets enough time in his busy day to research that debunked myth; here's a start:
Comparison of CO2 emissions from volcanoes vs. human activities.
Scientists have calculated that volcanoes emit between about 130-230 million tonnes (145-255 million tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (Gerlach, 1999, 1991). This estimate includes both subaerial and submarine volcanoes, about in equal amounts. Emissions of CO2 by human activities, including fossil fuel burning, cement production, and gas flaring, amount to about 27 billion tonnes per year (30 billion tons) [ ( Marland, et al., 2006) - The reference gives the amount of released carbon (C), rather than CO2, through 2003.]. Human activities release more than 130 times the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanoes--the equivalent of more than 8,000 additional volcanoes like Kilauea (Kilauea emits about 3.3 million tonnes/year)! (Gerlach et. al., 2002)
But the point, rather than being about absolute amounts, is the shift in the equilibrium, the increasing amounts added by humans, and how it has shifted climate into an unstable mode.
I think many, if not most of the students understood what Fred Singer is about. He gave at least two talks this week. Here is the reaction of one student who attended:
Singer also uses visceral personal attacks (“they don’t have their heads on right”) and does not cite any specific peer-reviewed scientific publications to support his radical claims — a basic violation of the scientific process. His negativism in bashing student activism and in suggesting that energy efficiency here will not affect Chinese energy policy ignores realities in social and economic systems. These all call into question the academic value of hosting him on our campus, especially without offering a climate scientist’s rebuttal. Additionally, inviting Singer to speak at Stanford on this topic lends him undeserved credibility.
Though naysayers will always exist, global climate change is particularly dangerous to dismiss with highly questionable reasoning and suspect sources. Biology Prof. Stephen Schneider often makes the analogy that people normally buy insurance to avert relatively miniscule risks, while the potential risk for severe impacts from global climate change is known to be much greater. It logically follows that we should insure the sustainability of our planet, where stakes are much higher for all of humanity. Delaying the development and implementation of sustainable innovations is actually the greater danger to “liberty,” “freedom” and our future.