Profiles of five prominent global warming skeptics
Many of the researchers expressing doubts about the science of global warming have financial ties to the oil, auto, electricity and coal industries. These experts appear regularly at Congressional hearings, on television, radio and in print, and at events in order to spread their message. That message varies somewhat from skeptic to skeptic but generally sows doubt about climate change, challenging the consensus of mainstream scientists. They ask whether global warming is really occurring, whether human activity is truly to blame and whether rising temperatures are such a bad thing.
Here are profiles of five of the most famous skeptics:
Frederick Seitz, Ph.D.
President Emeritus, National Academy of Sciences; Chairman Emeritus, George C. Marshall Institute
“The United States is very close to adopting an international agreement that would ration the use of energy and of technologies that depend upon coal, oil, and natural gas and some other organic compounds. This treaty is, in our opinion, based upon flawed ideas. Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful. To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful.”
Letter to the Oregon Petition Project, 1997.
Area of Expertise: Dubbed by Business Week "the granddaddy of global-warming skeptics" in 2000, Dr. Seitz is a physicist who served as the president of the National Academy of Science during the 1960s and of Rockefeller University from 1968 to 1978. In 1973, he received the National Medal of Science.
From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, Seitz worked as a paid consultant to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Hot Politics editorial consultant Mark Hertsgaard reported in Vanity Fair that helped the cigarette maker distribute $45 million for scientific research, which the company then touted in its advertising. Seitz himself eventually made over $585,000 during the approximately ten years that he worked for the tobacco industry.
In the 1990s, Dr. Seitz began publishing opinion pieces dismissing the dangers of global warming. In 1998, he circulated a petition through the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine saying that carbon dioxide poses no threat to climate and rejecting the Kyoto Protocol. Seitz was also a signatory of the 1995 Leipzig Declaration, which disputed that there was any scientific agreement about climate change.
Affiliations & Funding: Among the several skeptical organizations with which Dr. Seitz has been affiliated, he has been Chairman Emeritus of the George C. Marshall Institute, which received $630,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2005, according to the Greenpeace's Exxonsecrets.org and a review Exxon's financial documents. Seitz also served on the Board of Academic and Scientific Advisors for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which received $472,000 from Exxon from 1998 to 2005, according to the same sources.
Recent viewpoints: Seitz was interviewed on April 3, 2006 for FRONTLINE's Hot Politics. He defended his acceptance of money from the oil and tobacco industries by stating that the money did not influence his science. "As a president, a responsible president, of an institution that can devour enormous amounts of money usefully, I would take any green money for that cause. It's who spends the money that's important," he said.
Richard S. Lindzen, Ph.D.
Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we've seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe. What most commentators -- and many scientists -- seem to miss is that the only thing we can say with certainly about climate is that it changes. …
"The current alarm rests on the false assumption not only that we live in a perfect world, temperature-wise, but also that our warming forecasts for the year 2040 are somehow more reliable than the weatherman's forecast for next week.”
"Why so Gloomy?", Newsweek, April 2007.
Area of Expertise: A meteorologist, Lindzen is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. His published works include papers on monsoons, how heat and water move around the world, the ice ages and the effects of seasonal changes on the atmosphere. Lindzen worked on -- and was vocally critical of -- the Second Assessment of Climate Change by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in 1995; that same year he also signed the Leipzig Declaration. He has frequently aired his skepticism in testimony before Congress.
Affiliations & Funding: Dr. Lindzen has claimed in Newsweek and elsewhere that his funding comes exclusively from government sources, but he does not seem to include speaking fees and other personal compensation in this statement. Ross Gelbspan, who did some of the first reporting on climate skeptics' links to industry, wrote in Harper's Magazine in 1995: "[Lindzen] charges oil and coal interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services; his 1991 trip to testify before a Senate committee was paid for by Western Fuels, and a speech he wrote, entitled 'Global Warming: the Origin and Nature of Alleged Scientific Consensus,' was underwritten by OPEC."
Dr. Lindzen is a member of the Advisory Council of the Annapolis Center for Science Based Public Policy, which has received large amounts of funding from ExxonMobil and smaller amounts from Daimler Chrysler, according to a review Exxon's own financial documents and 990s from Daimler Chrysler's Foundation. Lindzen is a also been a contributor to the Cato Institute, which has taken $90,000 from Exxon since 1998, according to the website Exxonsecrets.org and a review Exxon financial documents. He is also a contributor for the George C. Marshall Institute.
Recent viewpoints: On January 31, 2007, Lindzen appeared on Larry King Live and said, regarding fear of global warming, "I think it's mainly just like little kids locking themselves in dark closets to see how much they can scare each other and themselves." Weeks later, he told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "To say that climate change will be catastrophic hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions that do not emerge from empirical science." Dr. Lindzen also appeared in the March 8, 2007 film The Great Global Warming Swindle, which aired on British television.
S. Fred Singer, Ph.D.
President, The Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP); Distinguished Research Professor, Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University.
“The irony is that there is no convincing evidence that the global climate is actually warming. ... Mr Gore and company are stirring the pot, trying to create public anxiety in order to impose a form of energy rationing on the economy.”
"Climate concern is just a tax ruse", Financial Times, Nov. 23, 2006.
Area of Expertise: A physicist and electrical engineer, Dr. Singer received his Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton University. In the 1940s and 1950s, he worked to develop instruments that can measure ozone and cosmic radiation from satellites. He is a former director of the U.S. National Weather Satellite Center and was a Deputy Administrator of the EPA in the early 1970s.
Dr. Singer has written extensively about his doubts about global warming science and is the author of the Leipzig Declaration signed by many skeptics. He has also published his doubts about the links between second hand smoke and lung cancer and between UV rays and skin cancer.
Affiliations & Funding: Dr. Singer publicly denies receiving funding from energy industry sources, but he has acknowledged previously being a paid consultant for several oil companies. In addition, his organization -- the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) -- has received multiple grants from ExxonMobil, according to a review of Exxon's own financial documents and Greenpeace's Exxonsecrets.org. That site also shows that many of the other organizations with which Singer works -- Frontiers of Freedom, the Cato Institute, National Center for Policy Analysis -- have received large grants from Exxon as well.
Recent Viewpoints: In a June 2006 letter to the editor published in the Wall Street Journal, Singer wrote,"The current warming trend is not unusual: Climate is always either warming or cooling, and ice is either melting or accumulating. ... The human contribution to global warming appears to be quite small and natural climate factors are dominant."
Patrick J. Michaels, Ph.D
Research Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia; Senior Fellow, Cato Institute; Virginia State Climatologist.
“It has been my history to get these ideas that are unpopular at the time but end up having some veracity. It certainly keeps me prominent. Twenty years ago I said that global warming would be the most mistreated scientific argument of our time. Global warming is an exaggeration issue, predictably blown out of proportion by the political and professional climate in which it evolved.”
Interview with Weatherwise Magazine, May 1, 2005.
Area of Expertise: Dr. Michaels earned his doctorate in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He served as the former President of the American Association of State Climatologists. His research has focused on the way climate affects agriculture. Michaels is the author of 1992's Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming, among other works. He is also affiliated with New Hope Environmental Services, Inc., which bills itself as an "advocacy science consulting firm." He is also a signatory of the Leipzig Declaration.
Affiliations & Funding: Dr. Michaels has acknowledged receiving funding from energy industry sources. He edits "World Climate Review," a newsletter and blog funded by the Western Fuels Association, a coalition of coal and electricity interests. Among the energy companies and groups from which he has received funding are the German Coal Mining Association, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Cyprus Minerals Company. According to ABC News, in February 2006, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association "contributed $100,000 to Dr. Michaels."
Recent Viewpoints: Michaels wrote in an op-ed in the Feb. 2, 2007 San Francisco Chronicle: "A small, but very vocal, band of extremists have been hawking a doomsday scenario, in which Greenland suddenly melts, raising sea levels 12 feet or more by 2100. … While this forecast enjoys no real support in the traditionally refereed scientific literature, it is repeated everywhere, and its supporters are already claiming that the IPCC -- the self-proclaimed 'consensus of scientists' -- is now wrong because it has toned down its projections of doom and gloom."
Robert C. Balling, Jr. Ph. D.
Former Director, Office of Climatology and Associate professor of Geography, Arizona State University
“Some actions could lessen our ability to adapt, or at least some of us. If electricity prices are driven up, making air conditioning less affordable, who will suffer the most? The poorest among us who can least afford higher prices, and who thereby would suffer more heat related deaths. When the weather gets hot, people need to avoid heated rhetoric and engage in some cool thinking.”
"Heat Wave, Hot Air", Tech Central Station, Aug. 4, 2005.
Area of Expertise: Dr. Balling received his Ph.D. in geography from University of Oklahoma in 1979 and was a senior consultant to the United Nations World Meteorological Organization. Dr. Balling has written various books, including Heated Debate, published by the Pacific Research Institute in 1992, and True State of the Planet, published by Competitive Enterprise Institute. He co-wrote The Satanic Gases with Patrick J. Michaels, published by the Cato Institute. Balling signed the Leipzig Declaration in 1995. He writes regularly for the Cato Institute, Tech Central Station and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, all of which have expressed doubt about global warming.
Affiliations & Funding: Journalist Ross Gelbspan reported in 1995 that Balling had received "more than $200,000 from coal and oil interests in Great Britain, Germany, and elsewhere." Dr. Balling has also received funding since 1989 from the Kuwaiti government, which paid for a version of Balling's A Heated Debate to be released in the Middle East. According to Greenpeace's Exxonsecrets.org, Dr. Balling conducted an ExxonMobil-funded study in 2002 entitled "The 2000 United States Historical Climate Network Update: What Changed?"
Recent Viewpoints: "Plants all over the planet evolved when atmospheric CO2 levels were very much higher than what we have today. Literally thousands of biological experiments show that when atmospheric CO2 levels increase, plants grow faster, bigger, more resistant to any number of stresses, and far more water-use efficient. In many ways, plants must feel like they are going home to a world in which they evolved with CO2 levels up to ten times what we have today. In order to make CO2 more sinister, claims are made that ragweed and poison ivy will grow more vigorously in the future, and indeed they will. But so will every tree in the forest, grasses in our rangelands, and every agricultural crop." "Give a Hoot, Don't (Call It) 'Pollute'", Tech Central Station, July 17, 2006.