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Fred Singer on the Myths of Politically Correct Science
With Anthony Wile - February 03, 2013
The Daily Bell is pleased to present this exclusive interview with 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 an 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!
The Daily Bell
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.