by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
The great climate iconoclast was 95 when he passed away last week. He will be sorely missed. Here’s an excerpt from Princeton physicist Will Happer’s tribute:
Fred Singer has fought the good fight, he has run the race, he has kept the faith. Now history will judge him. As the years pass, I am confident that Fred’s positive contributions to his generation will be more and more widely appreciated.
Fred did not have an easy journey through life. What he achieved was due to his own intelligence and indomitable spirit. He had no powerful family or patrons. This never bothered him, perhaps because he made so many friends who admired his pluck.
Although he was subject to more than his share of unjust abuse, Fred did not seem to hold grudges. Few of us can forgive and forget the way Fred did. …
As an adolescent, Fred Singer escaped Nazi rule of his native Austria. He first found refuge in England. He reached his adopted homeland, the United States of America in the 1940’s, in time to attend graduate school at Princeton University, where he earned a PhD in physics for work on cosmic rays. His thesis advisor, John Wheeler, was a student of Niels Bohr. John Wheeler made important contributions to the development of the hydrogen bomb.
Fred’s PhD dissertation was on cosmic rays that bombard our earth from outer space. And Fred has maintained a lifelong interest in the atmosphere, space and space exploration. He helped to design the first earth observation satellites, including instruments to measure atmospheric ozone. In the past few years, he has focused on how the rates of temperature change depend on altitude in the atmosphere, a particularly awkward area for climate models, which predict much more warming in the mid troposphere than is actually observed. …
Scientists and academics like to boast about their cool objectivity, but in fact, independent thought can come at a high price that few are prepared to pay. According to Plato, Socrates was the “gadfly” of ancient Athens. Fred has been an effective gadfly of the scientific establishment of our generation. A few years after getting to know Fred, during my time as Director of the Office of Energy Research at the US Department of Energy, I invited Fred to give a colloquium on global warming at Princeton University. When the announcement of Fred’s colloquium was published, a Nobel-prize-winning physicist colleague walked into my office and upbraided me with obscene words that I was surprised he knew. This rather diminished my respect for my colleague, who knew almost nothing about the physics of climate, and increased my respect for Fred.
Many academics are frustrated “philosopher kings,” embittered because society at large does not give them the reverence they think they deserve. Perhaps as a response to this, many lookinward, associating only with like-minded academics and treating the rest of society with contempt and even hatred. … It is a rare academic who knows even a fraction of what Fred knows about climate science, but the groupies have a frenzied certainty that Fred’s views on climate are wrong. All of their friends agree with them. It reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen’s story about the Emperor’s new clothes: “Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.” Like many of the rest of us, Fred has had difficulty seeing the new climate clothes that are sacred dogma for the groupies. He has been viciously attacked for pointing out the problems with climate dogma. To his credit he successfully sued one particularly libelous henchman of Al Gore for character defamation. To quote a proverb in Fred’s mother tongue, “Mehr Feinde, mehr Ehre,” more enemies, more honor.