Singer S Fred 1924

CONTROVERSIAL ATMOSPHERIC PHYSICIST, distinguished research professor at George Mason University, emeritus professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia, and founder of the Science and Environmental Policy Project—a policy institution on climate change and environmental issues, S. Fred Singer has been a leading skeptic of the scientific consensus on global warming. He points out that the scenarios pictured by most scientists are alarmist, that computer models reflect real gaps in climate knowledge, and says that future warming will be inconsequential or modest at most. He has also challenged the connection between ultraviolet-B radiation and melanoma and between secondhand smoking and lung cancer. Singer's critics have pointed out that the financial ties of his nonprofit organizations to tobacco and oil companies make Singer a case of clear conflict of interest.

Dr. Singer was born in Vienna on September 27, 1924. He did his undergraduate work in electrical engineering at Ohio State University and holds a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University. He has served in numerous government and academic positions such as acting as director of the Center for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Maryland (1953-62); as special adviser to President Eisenhower on space developments (1960); as first director of the National Weather Satellite Service (1962-64); as founding dean of the School of Environmental and Planetary Sciences at the University of Miami (1964-67); as deputy assistant secretary for water quality and research, U.S. Department of the Interior (1967-70); as deputy assistant administrator for policy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1970-71); as professor of environmental sciences, University of Virginia (1971-94), and as chief scientist, U.S. Department of Transportation (1987-89).

To Singer, climate change is not something humans should fear. He argues that the climate has changed constantly throughout this and previous centuries and that people have always successfully adapted to it. In addition, he believes that humans can affect climate at a local level. Yet, whether they can cause global weather changes has still to be proved. Singer has repeatedly claimed that the atmosphere has not warmed up in recent decades. In fact, he has claimed that since 1979, it has slightly cooled down. Surface records that show increases in temperature are not, according to Singer, reliable sources of information, as thermometers tend to be placed in or very near to urban areas, which are traditionally warmer than other locations. Singer claims that models and observations about global warming do not agree. Although climatic models show that there should be an increase of about 1 degree F per decade in the middle troposphere, observations contradict these models. Singer is critical of arguments based on laboratory experiments, as the atmosphere is much more complicated and does not function under controlled circumstances. He recognizes that the increase in atmospheric CO2 might lead to a slight warming, yet he says that this phenomenon is counterbalanced by increased evaporation of the oceans. The production of aerosols also causes cooling, which may counterbalance the effects of carbon dioxide. Yet, although Singer admits that aerosols last for a maximum of few weeks but CO2 stays for decades, he is critical of models emphasizing the role of aerosols in connection to carbon dioxide.

Singer argues that because aerosols are mostly emitted in the Northern Hemisphere, where industrial activities are rampant, we would expect the Northern Hemisphere to be warming less quickly than the Southern Hemisphere. Actually, according to such models, the Northern Hemisphere should be cooling. To him, however, the data show the opposite, as both the surface data and the satellite data agree that, in the last 20 years, the Northern Hemisphere has warmed more quickly than the Southern Hemisphere. This fact contradicts the whole idea that aerosols make an important difference and proves that aerosols cannot be invoked as an explanation for the discrepancies between models and observations.

Singer does not have much faith in computer models, which he describes as having been "tweaked" to produce the present climate and the present short-term variation. He also points out that the two dozen models presently used are not entirely consistent with each other. These models also fail to depict all types of clouds, which to Singer is a fundamental flaw. He compares the current concern over global warming and the urgent calls for action to buying insurance with a high premium against a risk that is small. The Kyoto Protocol, to Singer, is part of the high insurance premium. The reduction of energy use by about 35 percent within 10 years implies, according to Singer's estimate, giving up one-third of all energy use, using one-third less electricity, and demolishing one-third of all cars. In spite of accusations aimed at other scientists that they use an apocalyptic tone when describing global warming, Singer too uses apocalyptic overtones to describe the Kyoto scenario: "It would be a huge dislocation of our economy, and it would hit people very hard, particularly people who can least afford it."

To Singer, global warming is a big business, with governments pumping about $2 billion into climate research. Thus people have to justify this expenditure, which supports jobs and research. Yet George Mon-biot has emphasized that Singer has strong ties with oil and tobacco company—a fact that constitutes a conflict of interest given his stance on CO2 emissions and secondhand smoking: "In March 1993, APCO sent a memo to Ellen Merlo, the vice president of Philip Morris, who had just commissioned it to fight the Environmental Protection Agency: As you know, we have been working with Dr. Fred Singer and Dr. Dwight Lee, who have authored articles on junk science and indoor air quality (IAQ) respectively.'" Singer's Science and Environmental Policy Project also received multiple grants from ExxonMobil.

SEE ALSo: Climate Change, Effects; Climate Models.

BIBLioGRAPHY. George Monbiot, "The Denial Industry," The Guardian, September 19, 2006, www.guardian. co.uk/environment/2006/sep/19/ethicalliving.g2; PBS Interview with Dr. S. Fred Singer, "What's Up With the Weather?" www.pb s.org/wgbh/warming/debate/singer. html; Fred Singer, Global Climate Change: Human and Natural Influences (Paragon House, 1989); S. Fred Singer, The Greenhouse Debate Continued (Institute for Contemporary Studies Press, 1992); S. Fred Singer, Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate (The Independent Institute, 1997); S. Fred Singer, The Scientific Case Against the Global Climate Treaty (Science and Environmental Policy Project, 1997).

Luca Prono University of Nottingham

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