By Steven Milloy
March 27, 2008, FoxNews.com
By any standard, atmospheric physicist Dr. S. Fred Singer is a remarkably accomplished scientist. But his outspoken questioning of global warming alarmism has just earned him one of the most outrageous mainstream media smear pieces I’ve ever seen.
ABC News reporter Dan Harris interviewed Singer for more than an hour at the recent International Climate Conference. From that interview, Harris produced a three-minute TV broadcast and Web site article that was about as fair and objective toward Singer as I might expect Greenpeace to be.
In fact, considering the activist group’s dominant role in Harris’ “report,” it seems that ABC News was merely the production company for a Greenpeace propaganda hit.
Harris’ piece starts out, “His fellow scientists call him a fraud, a charlatan and a showman, but Fred Singer calls himself ‘a realist.’” And just who are these “fellow scientists”? Harris didn’t identify them.
But I doubt anyone who knows anything about Singer could slander him like that in good conscience. Armed with a doctorate from Princeton University, Singer played a key role in the U.S. Navy’s development of countermeasures for mine warfare during World War II.
From there, Singer achieved fame in space science. Some of his major accomplishments include using rockets to make the first measurements of cosmic radiation in space along with James A. Van Allen (1947-50); designing the first instrument for measuring stratospheric ozone (1956); developing the capture theory for the origin of the Moon and Martian satellites (1966); calculating the increase in methane emissions due to population growth that is not key to global warming and ozone depletion theories (1971); and discovering orbital debris clouds with satellite instruments (1990).
Singer is exceedingly modest about his career. Although I have known him for more than a decade, I only inadvertently learned of his earlier achievements last year while reading “Sputnik: The Shock of the Century” (Walker & Company, 2007), which chronicles the development of the U.S. Space Program.
The book described Singer, along with Van Allen, as a “pioneer of space science.” The author also wrote, “America’s journey into space can arguably be traced to a gathering at James Van Allen’s house in Silver Spring, Maryland on April 5, 1950. The guest of honor was the eminent British geophysicist Sydney Chapman… The other guests were S. Fred Singer…”
Among his many prominent positions, Singer was the first director of the National Weather Satellite Center and the first dean of the University of Miami’s School of Environmental and Planetary Sciences. He’s also held many senior administrative positions at federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and Department of Interior.
Despite this illustrious bio, ABC News’ Harris apparently was too busy swallowing the Greenpeace caricature of Singer to do any research on the actual man.
In a letter to ABC News, Singer complained that “Dan Harris also referred to unnamed scientists from NASA, Princeton and Stanford, who pronounced what I do as ‘fraudulent nonsense’… They are easily identified as the well-known global warming zealots Jim Hansen, Michael Oppenheimer and Steve Schneider. They should be asked by ABC to put their money where their mouth is and have a scientific debate with me. I suspect they’ll chicken out. They surely know that the facts support my position — so they resort to anonymous slurs.”
Perhaps the most comical part of Harris’ hit piece is the Greenpeace contribution. In the eco-activist tradition of willful ignorance and ad hominem attack, Greenpeace’s Kert Davies said of Singer, “He’s kind of a career skeptic. He believes that environmental problems are all overblown and he’s made a career on being that voice.”
Right, Kert. Singer is just now making his career. And just who is Kert Davies, described by Harris as a “global warming specialist,” and what exactly qualifies him to pass any sort of judgment on Singer? I e-mailed Kert a request for his resume in order to learn precisely what a “global warming specialist” is. I received no response as of the writing of this column.
Singer’s eminent qualifications and lifetime of accomplishment are readily available on the Internet for all to see. What about Davies’ qualifications and accomplishments? I couldn’t find them on the Greenpeace Web site; I couldn’t find them through a Nexis search.
Is it possible that their Internet absence is indicative of their general nature? All that I could find out about Davies is that the media often has used quotes from him in the role of a spokesman for various eco-activist groups since the mid-1990s.
Worse than Davies is ABC News’ Harris. Although he didn’t need any particular qualifications or expertise to fairly report the interview with Singer other than perhaps some basic journalistic objectivity, he couldn’t even manage that as he allowed the distinguished Singer to be smeared by a rather undistinguished blowhard.
This column recently reported on another recent mainstream media effort to marginalize those who question global warming alarmism. It’s a fascinating phenomenon given that available scientific evidence on the all-important relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global climate indisputably supports Singer’s point of view rather than the alarmists.
Apparently the activists have decided that since they can’t destroy the facts, they’ll instead try to destroy anyone who dares mention them.
Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.