S. Fred Singer in Memoriam: A Life Well-Lived in Pursuit of Truth

Published April 10, 2020

It is with great sadness that The Heartland Institute learned this week of the passing of award-winning climate scientist S. Fred Singer. Singer touched the hearts and minds of all with whom he spoke or interacted. Fred lived long and well. He was dogged and dauntless in his pursuit of the scientific truth in general and a science-grounded understanding of climate change and climate policy in particular. Fred’s intellect was profound and freely shared, and his influence on climate science will persist long after his passing. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Today’s lead article comprises In Memoriam messages touching on Fred’s life and work, by The Heartland Institute’s current president, James Taylor, and Joe Bast, longtime Heartland president.

—   H. Sterling Burnett


Dr. S. Fred Singer, R.I.P.

Atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer, one of the true giants of modern-day science, passed on this week at the age of 95. Singer’s impacts on the world of science will live on long after this generation also passes on.

A summary of his scientific accomplishments would take hours to read. A few of the highlights include pioneering Earth observation satellites in the early 1960s, creating the National Weather Bureau’s Satellite Service Center, serving as the founding dean of the School of Environmental and Planetary Sciences at the University of Miami, serving as the chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Transportation, and serving as deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. [See his long and impressive bio on Heartland’s website, linked below].

Supplementing those and many other accomplishments, Singer was a leading voice for realism regarding global warming. Singer founded the Science & Environmental Policy Project to address climate change issues, and he authored dozens of books and studies on climate change. His 2006 book, Unstoppable Global Warming … Every 1,500 Years, coauthored with Dennis Avery, is one of the most influential and widely read climate science books ever written. His work with the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), for which he served as lead author of the Climate Change Reconsidered series of comprehensive climate science summaries, was instrumental in providing authoritative scientific support for climate realism.

For many, Singer will be best remembered for his annual appearances at The Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC) events. In addition to giving compelling science presentations at the conferences, Singer became an influential mentor to attending scientists and a beloved friend to Heartland Institute staff, conference attendees, and fellow scientists. [See his many ICCC presentations, linked below].

The field of science will miss Fred Singer very much, as will the many, many people who were fortunate enough to get to know the man.

—   James M. Taylor


Reflections on a Scientific Giant and Friend, Fred Singer

Fred Singer passed away on April 6 at the age of 95. That this news was long expected makes it no less sad and disheartening. I write this as if through a veil of tears.

My condolences and deepest thanks go out to Rocky and the staff at the Rockville Nursing Home who took such good care of Fred for the past few years. My wife and I saw it firsthand during our visits to Fred last year. Fred was such a wonderful person, so kind and wise, witty, and considerate of others, that everyone who met him knew they were in the presence of a special person, even when they didn’t know he was a world-renowned scientist and prominent public intellectual.

Fred Singer was a giant in the field of climate science. His careers in government, the academy, and then in think tanks gave him a breadth of knowledge and experience that mere specialists invariably lack. Most physicists, for example, focus on the behavior of clouds and cosmic rays while neglecting the bigger picture of biological feedbacks, economics, and politics. Most economists focus on cost-benefit analysis and forget that people don’t care how much fire extinguishers cost when their house is on fire. Fred understood the physics, biology, economics, and politics of climate change, and much, much more. In a dozen books and hundreds of articles he explained virtually every aspect of the climate change issue in terms sophisticated enough to be published in the leading peer-reviewed science journals and so plainspoken that his writings could appear in The Wall Street Journal and online at American Thinker.

To me, Fred was a mentor, a true scientist and teacher, and a friend. I first worked closely with him and Dennis Avery on a revised edition of Unstoppable Global Warming … Every 1,500 Years, in 2007. We discovered, to both our surprise I’m sure, that our patterns of thought and expression were so similar that we made an excellent team. We could, as is said, finish each other’s sentences. That partnership led to Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate, in 2008, then five volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series, and ended with a revised edition of Hot Talk, Cold Science (in production).

Fred Singer’s contribution to the international debate over climate change cannot be overstated. He was a pioneer, one of the first and most prominent scientists to debate his fellow scholars on this issue and criticize the false and exaggerated claims of environmentalists and politicians who claimed to be experts on the subject. Where others stayed silent out of fear of retaliation by activists in government and in universities, Fred was utterly fearless, willing to take the slings and arrows of critics in order to defend real (not political) science.

In addition to being a prolific writer himself, Fred encouraged countless others to write and speak out on the controversial subject of climate change. He was always available to comment on other people’s work and to encourage them to submit their writings to academic journals or to work with think tanks that would publish and promote their ideas. He had an unparalleled international network of scholars with whom he corresponded frequently, the basis for what became the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).

For several years, Fred Singer almost singlehandedly sustained a debate over whether enough is known, or even can be known, about the causes and consequences of climate change to justify the regulations and taxes being proposed by many partisans on the left. Thanks to his integrity, leadership, generosity, and example, he soon was no longer a lone voice in the debate but instead created a movement—call it climate realism—that today dominates informed (if not academic) discussion of climate change. That perspective, now embraced by President Donald Trump and most Republicans in the United States, is saving countless lives and fueling global prosperity.

God bless you, Fred Singer. May you rest in peace knowing you changed the world for the better and left behind generations of thinkers and doers inspired by your example and nurtured by your friendship.

—   Joseph L. Bast

SOURCES: The Heartland Institute; The Heartland Institute; The Heartland Institute; International Conferences on Climate Change; The Heartland Institute


£100,000 Per Household Price Tag for Net Zero Electricity … Cyclone/hurricane Losses Exacerbated by Loss of Coastal Wetlands … Scientists Say, ‘Fight Virus, Not Carbon Dioxide’


A recent study published by the United Kingdom’s Global Warming Policy Foundation finds either of two different energy schemes to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector suggested by country’s national grid operator would come at a high cost to households, businesses, and government.

Authors Colin Gibson, formerly the power network director for National Grid, and Dr. Capell Aris, who has worked in the electricity supply industry at the Wylfa nuclear power plant and at the Dinorwig and Ffestiniog pumped-storage stations, analyzed two plans put forward by National Grid to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050: the Community Renewables (CR) scenario and the Two Degrees (TD) plan. They found either approach would lead to energy shortages and high costs.

Under CR, which includes using a large amount of battery backup and pumped-air storage to fill in for wind and solar during shortfalls, Gibson and Aris calculated stored energy would be lacking for as much as 10 percent of the time each year when backup was needed, forcing the National Grid to impose energy rationing while wasting 45 terrawatts of power when renewables generate more energy than demanded over the course of a year. The costs of this wasted energy would be £4.5 billion, or approximately £166 per household each year. TD produced similarly high costs, electric power shortfalls, and days of wasted expensive energy.

While making the United Kingdom’s energy supply less secure, CR would add more than £1.4 trillion of cumulative costs to ratepayers’ electric bills by 2050, topping £100,000 per household, Gibson and Capell conclude.

SOURCE: Global Warming Policy Foundation


New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds counties experiencing greater amounts of wetlands lost or developed suffered higher costs and greater losses during hurricanes and tropical storms than counties with more retained wetlands.

It has long been recognized that various types of wetlands, such as mangrove forests, marshes, and seagrass beds, and the sediment they build up over decades, protect inland areas from storm surges and strong winds and mitigate sea level rise and local land subsidence.

The researchers examined geospatial data for all coastal counties on the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts covering 88 tropical storms and hurricanes hitting the United States between 1996, when the federal government first began recording consistent data for wetland losses and conversions in addition to hurricane and tropical storm data, and 2016, to estimate the expected economic value of the protective effects of wetlands. They found counties with more intact wetland coverage experienced significantly less property damage, and the expected economic value of the protective effects of wetlands averages approximately $1.8 million per square kilometer per year, while varying greatly across different counties.

In Florida alone, for example, property damage from Hurricane Irma was $480 million greater than it would have been if the state had not lost 2.8 percent of its coastal wetlands during the decade prior to the storm, their analysis found.

Between now and 2050, an average unit of wetlands could prevent $36 million in storm damage, with urban areas with higher populations and areas with less stringent building codes benefitting more from wetlands protection than less-populated rural coastal areas or cities and towns with stricter building codes, the study found.

The research indicates the United States would prevent far more storm and flood damage if it stopped subsidizing hurricane and flood insurance, which encourages people to move to or develop in areas prone to flooding and tropical storms and convert wetlands to homes, hotels, and coastal retail, instead of trying to do so indirectly through restrictions on fossil fuel use.

SOURCES: Eos; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


An international group of scientists associated with Climate Intelligence (CLINTEL) has posted an open letter online calling on world leaders to redirect their efforts away from fighting climate change to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

CLINTEL is an independent foundation established in 2019 with the support of scientists from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America, to “communicate objectively and transparently to the general public what facts are available about climate change and climate policy.”

Calling the COVID 19 pandemic a “lesson in humility” that shows how “unpredictable natural forces change the world,” CLINTEL’s letter says,

Your Excellencies, compared to COVID-19 climate change is a non-problem! It is based on computer models and looks into the far future. In current health emergency, however, your attention to the peoples’ needs is today! Please, don’t continue pushing your zero carbon emission ambition in a time that the world is dealing with a deadly global crisis. Yes, there is an emergency, but it is NOT the climate.

The letter goes on to say it is impossible to end carbon dioxide emissions and dangerous to try.

“The past 150 years show that affordable and reliable energy is key to public health, sanitation, education and prosperity,” the twenty-plus international CLINTEL ambassadors write. “The past 150 years also show that more CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth and increasing the yields of crops.”

Instead of imposing a harmful Green New Deal on the peoples of the world, which will make matters even worse, CLINTEL pleads, “As a very first step, designated Green New Deal money must be redirected and invested in a significantly better global health system. … History tells us that a pandemic like COVID-19 will happen again. At least, we must be better prepared.”


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