Dr. Singer goes on to “demand a full retraction and apology from the blog,” and he asks that we publish the following statement: “Dr. Singer and SEPP (Science & Environmental Policy Project) have no connection whatsoever with the tobacco industry, now or in the past. As a matter of policy, SEPP does not solicit funds or other kinds of support from any industry or from government, but relies on tax-deductible donations from foundations and individuals in many countries. Further, Dr. Singer serves on the Advisory Board of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), an organization that has a strong anti-smoking position.”
We have no comment on the ACSH, but Dr. Singer’s main point – that he has “no connection whatsoever with the tobacco industry, now or in the past” – strains credulity.
For example, here is the link to a memo in which an official from the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution solicits $20,000 from the Tobacco Institute for the preparation of a “research” paper challenging the health effects of second-hand smoke, and suggesting that Dr. Singer be retained to write the report. Here is the link to a letter thanking the Tobacco Institute for $20,000 intended “to support our research and education projects.” Here is a research paper, just as described in the earlier memo, with Dr. Singer’s name as the author. And here is another Tobacco Institute memo, reporting on Dr. Singer’s appearance with two Congressional Representatives releasing the paper to the media.
More to the point, for a blog about the dubious public relations tactics being used to skew the climate change debate, is Dr. Singer’s previous statements about his involvement with the oil industry.
For example, on Feb. 21, 2001, Dr. Singer wrote to the Washington Post, saying: “As for full disclosure: My résumé clearly states that I consulted for several oil companies on the subject of oil pricing, some 20 years ago, after publishing a monograph on the subject. “My connection to oil during the past decade is as a Wesson Fellow at the Hoover Institution; the Wesson money derives from salad oil.” At the time that Dr. Singer wrote this letter, ExxonMobil was listing him on their website as a recipient of US $10,000 in direct funding and as a participant in an event to which ExMo contributed $65,000. Our colleague Ross Gelbspan reported all this in The Nation in an article that can be found here.
This is a stark illustration of what we are up against in the climate change “debate.” On one hand you have the world’s most accomplished and reputable scientists – more than 2,000 of whom have submitted research to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – carefully weighing every pronouncement for accuracy and subjecting all of their research to peer-review before announcing it publicly. These people agree, unreservedly, that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity.
On the other hand, you have a huge and expensive public relations campaign denying that scientific consensus. This campaign is largely financed with money from energy companies like ExxonMobil, which is then lightly laundered through “think tanks” like the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution or the Competitive Enterprise Institute or through industry front groups like Dr. Singer’s own Science & Environmental Policy Project. The money is then passed along to “experts” like Dr. Singer, who seems happy enough to be paid for his services, even if he is reticent to admit it after the fact.
There should be no doubt in this conversation where the weight of credibility lies.