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Merchants of ‘smear’ movie slanders eminent Physicist Dr. Fred Singer – Singer Fires Back!

Climate Depot Exclusive

Also Sent by Registered Mail to Robert Kenner Films,

134 So. Norton St, Suite A, Los Angeles, CA 90004

Dear Mr. Kenner,                                                                                                                       March 6, 2015

I am writing this letter on the advice of my attorneys, who suggested that a friendly letter from me to you might avoid having to take legal action.

I’ve been informed that your new documentary “Merchants of Doubt” refers to me as “Liar for Hire”.  If correct, that is a very serious accusation which of course cannot be backed up in any way.

The word “Liar” implies not only telling something that is not true, but telling an untruth knowingly.  So even people who disagree with me on climate-change science (and such people do exist) would have to prove that I don’t really believe what I say – that I am saying it in order to mislead.

The word “hire” implies that I am being paid directly, i.e., that I am on salary by some entity such as an oil company — or that I am taking money from a source that is supported predominately by such money and that I am aware of it.  We would judge that hire is also very difficult to demonstrate.

I have some experience with libel suits; thanks to Kirkland & Ellis, we prevailed against an environmental lawyer, a groupie of then-Senator Al Gore.  It took a lot of my time and was costly.  I would prefer to avoid having to go to court; but if we do, we are confident that we will prevail.

My good friend, the late J. Gordon Edwards, professor of entomology at San Jose State University, sued the New York Times for libel and prevailed in a jury trial.  The NYT had referred to him as someone who is being paid to lie.  We think there will be no problem to demonstrate “malice.”  (That is, “knowledge that [the libelous statement] was false or [made] with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”)

Mind you, I am not now accusing you personally of malice, but it is rather too bad that you got mixed up with Naomi Oreskes.  She claims to be a historian of science; unfortunately, she has only demonstrated that she’s a great polemicist with a rather well-defined bias.  Her book “Merchants of Doubt” contains a number of serious scientific errors; also, it is not in accordance with the kind of scholarship expected from an academic historian.  Instead of primary sources, she relies on secondary and even tertiary sources who have obvious, demonstrated agenda.

In her book, she attacks four physicists, three of whom were quite distinguished and are now deceased.  I have felt it my obligation to defend their reputations posthumously.

I hope that you will respond positively to this letter and suggest ways in which the situation raised by your documentary can be rectified.  Your reputation based on your past work is excellent and we should do everything possible to maintain it that way.

Sincerely yours,

  1. Fred Singer


End Letter


Dr. Fred Singer’s Original Critique of Naomi Oreskes book: 

Merchants of Smear: Oreskes and Conway

SFS/ 6/16/2011

Professor Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California in San Diego, claims to be a science historian.  One can readily demonstrate that she is neither a credible scientist nor a credible historian; the best evidence is right there in her recent book, “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming,” coauthored with Eric Conway.  Her science is faulty; her historical procedures are thoroughly unprofessional.  She is, however, an accomplished polemicist, who has found time for world lecture tours, promoting her book and her ideological views, while being paid by the citizens of California.  Her book tries to smear four senior physicists – of whom I am the only surviving one.  I view it as my obligation to defend the reputations of my late colleagues and good friends against her libelous charges.

Oreskes is well known from her 2004 article in Science that claimed a complete scientific consensus about manmade global warming; it launched her career as a polemicist.  Her claim was based on examining the abstracts of some 900 published papers.  Unfortunately, she missed more than 11,000 papers through an incorrect Internet search.  She published a discreet “Correction”; yet she has never retracted her ideologically based claim about ‘consensus.’  Al Gore still quotes her result, which has been contradicted by several, more competent studies [by Peiser, Schulte, Bray and von Storch; Lemonick in SciAm, etc].

Turning first to her science, her book discusses acidification, as measured by the pH coefficient.  She states that a pH of 6.0 denotes neutrality [page 67, MoD].  Let’s be charitable and chalk this off to sloppy proofreading.

Elsewhere in the book [page 29], she claims that beryllium is a “heavy metal” and tries to back this up with references.  I wonder if she knows that the atomic weight of beryllium is only 9, compared to, say, uranium, which is mostly 238.  A comparison of these two numbers should tell anyone which one is the heavy metal.

Her understanding of the Greenhouse Effect is plain comical; she posits that CO2 is “trapped” in the troposphere — and that’s why the stratosphere is cooling.  Equally wrong is her understanding of what climate models are capable of; she actually believes that they can predict forest fires in Russia, floods in Pakistan and China – nothing but calamities everywhere — and tells climate scientists in a recent lecture: I If the predictions of climate models have come true, then why don’t people believe them?  [see]  Perhaps because people are not gullible.

But the most amazing science blunder in her book is her hypothesis about how cigarette smoking causes cancer [page 28].  She blames it on oxygen-15, a radioactive isotope of the common oxygen-16.  I wonder if she knows that the half-life of O-15 is only 122 seconds.  Of course, she does not spell out how O-15 gets into cigarette smoke, whether it is in the paper or in the tobacco itself.  If the latter, does she believe that the O-15 is created by the burning of tobacco?  If so, this would be a fantastic discovery, worthy of an alchemist.  Perhaps someone should make her aware of the difference between radio-active and ‘reactive’ oxygen; the two words do sound similar.

I am sure one would find more examples of scientific ignorance in a careful reading of the rest of the book.  But why bother?

Having demonstrated her scientific ‘expertise,’ let’s turn to her historical expertise.  Any careful historian would use primary sources and would at least try to interview the scientists she proceeds to smear.  There is no trace of that in Oreskes’ book.  She has never taken the trouble to interview Dr. Robert Jastrow, founder of the NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and later Director of the Mt. Wilson Astronomical Observatory and founding president of the renowned George C Marshall Institute in Washington, DC.  I can find no evidence that she ever interviewed Dr. William Nierenberg, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who actually lived in San Diego and was readily accessible.  And I doubt if she ever even met Dr. Frederick Seitz, the main target of her venom.

Seitz was the most distinguished of the group of physicists that are attacked in the book.  He had served as President of the US National Academy of Sciences and of the American Physical Society, and later as President of Rockefeller University.  He had been awarded numerous honorary degrees from universities here and abroad, as well as the prestigious National Medal of Science from the White House.

Instead of seeking first-hand information — in the tradition of historical research — Oreskes relies on secondary or tertiary sources, quoting people who agree with her ideology.  A good example of this is her discussion of Acid Rain and of the White House panel (under Reagan, in 1982) chaired by Bill Nierenberg, on which I also served.  Here she relies on what she was told by Dr. Gene Likens, whose research funding depends on portraying acid rain as a very serious environmental problem.  It most definitely is not – and indeed, it disappeared from view as soon as Congress passed legislation designed to reduce the effect.

An amazing discovery: I found that Oreskes gives me credit (or blames me) for inventing ‘cap-and-trade,’ the trading of emission rights under a fixed cap of total emissions [see pp. 91-93].  I had never claimed such a priority because I honestly don’t know if this idea had been published anywhere.  It seemed like the natural thing to suggest — in order to reduce total cost, once an emission cap had been set.  My example involved smelters that emit SO2 copiously versus electric utilities that burn coal containing some sulfur.  I even constructed what amounts to a ‘supply curve’ in which the bulk of the emission control is borne initially by the lowest-cost units.

Of course, Likens and some others on the panel, antagonistic to coal-burning electric utilities, objected to having my discussion included in the panel report.  Nierenberg solved the problem neatly by putting my contribution into a signed Appendix, thereby satisfying some panel members who did not want be responsible for a proposal that might let some electric utilities off the hook.

We have established so far that Oreskes is neither a scientist of any sort nor a careful professional historian.  She is, however, a “pop-psychologist.”  It seems she has figured out what motivates the four senior physicists she libels in her book; it is “anti-communism.”  Really!  This is not only stated explicitly but she also identifies them throughout as “Cold Warriors.”

Well, now we know at least where Oreskes stands in the political spectrum.


Atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer pioneered upper-atmosphere ozone measurements with rockets and later devised the satellite instrument used to monitor ozone.  He is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and founding director of the US Weather Satellite Service (now NESDIS-NOAA).  He is a Fellow of the Heartland Institute and the Independent Institute.  His book “Unstoppable Global Warming – Every 1500 Years” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007) presents the evidence for natural climate cycles of warming and cooling and became a NY Times best-seller.  He is the organizer of NIPCC (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change, editor of its 2008 report “Nature – Not Human Activity – Rules the Climate” <>, and coauthor of “Climate Change Reconsidered,” published in 2009, with conclusions contrary to those of the IPCC <>.  As a reviewer of IPCC reports, he presumably shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore and 2000 others.