SEPP has alwys been a one-man-band, that one man being Fred Singer of course (Do you know the dirt about Singer? He was once sane. BTW, if you’re here from wiki, don’t miss a post I did on Lindzen).

But being a one-man-band makes it look like you’re a wacko (err…) so obviously you need an organisation, and obviously that organisation needs a board of directors, science advisors, you know the kind of thing: pad it out with some names to look impressive. So Singer did, the SEPP website proudly proclaims:

The following serve on the Board of Directors of The Science & Environmental Policy Project:

* Frederick Seitz, Ph.D. (Chairman)
* (etc)

(see Note to SEPP: I’ve saved a copy, and so has the internet archive, so don’t bother trying to change it and pretend there was no problem).

There is only one problem with this (well, other than that Seitz was also a bit of a wacko on GW, but let’s skip over that): Seitz is pushing up the daisies. It must be true wikipedia says so.

And: The following individuals serve on the Board of Science Advisors of The Science & Environmental Policy Project:

* Bruce N. Ames
* C.J.F. Böttcher
* Tor Ragnar Gerholm
* Michael J. Higatsberger
* Henry R. Linden
* Sir William Mitchell
* William A. Nierenberg
* Michel Salomon
* Chauncey Starr

Again: nice people, kind to children and animals, a bit loopy perhaps, but suffering from a major problem: most of them are six feet under (fun game for a wet half-hour: work out which few of them *aren’t* stiffs).

However, it was suggested that they might be contactable via Ouija Board, so I’m wondering if any of the more cartoon-ly talented would care to try their hands at a Viz style strip. Unfortunately “Singer” doesn’t rhyme with “board” and that is an absolute requirement. You’ll never get close to the heights of Mickey’s monkey spunk moped but it might be fun anyway. Alas I can’t find a reprint of that cartoon on the web anymore.

[Current best version is "Septic Fred, he talks to the Dead" slightly modified from the comments]


  1. #1 Adam

    How about this for a title:

    SEPPtic Fred – He Talks To The Dead

  2. #2 silence

    Their 2008 form 990 lists another name on the board of directors:
    M. Brandsdorfer

  3. #3 Carl C

    bloody hell, a million bucks in a year for those hacks, and $110K for conference expenses! I saw Fred’s poster at AGU two years ago (across from my poster) – it was 4 sheets of regular notebook paper with some bullshit scribbled and drawn blathering about the records from weather balloons “discredits” global warming. Must have cost all of 5 cents….

  4. #4 ligne

    yeah, it seems to have been yanked from the viz website. this is all that remains of it on the tubes.

    huhuhuhuhuh, “yanked”.

  5. #5 Hank Roberts

    Hmph. Nothing special about them.

    [Ah, nice -W]

  6. #6 Ray

    I do not know this Singer fellow but it appears he and others, against an onslaught of demonizing and bad mouthing, have won the publics vote.

    Climate change has become a joke.

  7. #7 John Mashey

    1) OK, so he has more deceased people on his boards than does Arthur Robinson at OISM … the new Republican candidate for the Oregon-4th District, i.e., for US House of Representatives. (Kamen & Merrifield are deceased, at least Arthur says so!)

    2) SEPP has no always been a one-man band … for a while, Singer’s then-wife, Constance Crandall, helped him out, including attending the 1998 GCSCT meeting.

    3) Of those alive, Charles Gelman is certainly interesting, as is Bruce Ames (CFACT, GMI, TASSC, NCPA … a winning group.)

    4) All of these are discussed in Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony.

    5) But until I read this, it had not occurred to me that perhaps Fred and Arthur stay in touch via untappable psychic meetings of their deceased board members…

    6) Finally, on sale today is new book of Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt. They dug up a *lot* of material, including some of Fred’s past wishes. This was helped somewhat by being handy to Scripps, i.e., repository for William Nierenberg’s archives… not stuff you can find by Google.

    The other 3 folks discussed most there are deceased, so will need to channel somebody to read the book, but Fred will not like this book at all…

    READ THIS BOOK, as it will illuminate much of what goes on and how it got there.

    [Sounds worth reading. Alas it is on sale in the US but only "pre order" in the UK -W]

  8. #8 Socialist Misfit

    The Form 990 that “silence” links to makes interesting reading.

    Among other curiosities Frederick Seitz died in March 2008 and yet the form — signed May 14, 2009, over a year after Seitz’s death — lists him as “Chm” (presumably “Chairman”).

    Is the 2009 form available yet?

    [Hmm, that is indeed interesting. I'll add it to my talk page in the brief interval between my unblock and reblock -W]

  9. #9 Rattus Norvegicus

    Maybe they meant Chm. (very emeritus).

  10. #10 pough

    …against an onslaught of demonizing and bad mouthing…

    There doesn’t seem to be a day go by without climate scientists getting called frauds or being accused of intentionally altering data for the sole purpose of making money (the real insult here is their alleged plan). To find demonizing and bad mouthing in the other direction, someone had to hack private emails.

    Meanwhile the public who is voting for the likes of Singer also voted overwhelmingly for the Spice Girls, so…

  11. #11 pough

    On topic: perhaps we should be taking this more seriously. What if these people, having died and (obviously) gone to heaven, are reaching out from beyond the grave with the Real Truth? What could be more accurate than a message from God?

  12. #12 P. Lewis

    Singer’s song’s a mish-mash, a pocket full of lies,
    Four and twenty SEPP directors never can arise
    When his lies were tested the truth was plain to see
    Oh wasn’t that a shame he cried, I’ll lie some more for thee

    After a traditional Nursery Crhyme

  13. #13 P. Lewis

    … What if these people, having died and (obviously) gone to heaven [!!??!!], are reaching out from beyond the grave with the Real Truth? What could be more accurate than a message from God?

    Wrong direction!

  14. #14 Georg Hoffmann

    I checked. Three of the board are still living. The youngest is 83.
    Here is a picture of the last meeting of the board

    [:-) -W]

  15. #15 Adam

    P. Lewis, apparently the original of that song was about pirates*, and we all know the connection between pirates and anthropogenic climate change.

    *may be mythical, but Snopes for example, thinks it’s true.

  16. #16 P. Lewis

    Interesting note that at Snopes about the pirate ditty.

    [Err, do you mean this? Then you need to read that -W]

  17. #17 Alex Harvey


    I am here from Wiki and sure, I’ll take the bait.

    I have read your post on Lindzen from 2007 and a while ago your diffs of Lindzen’s Wiki biography and talk page going all the way back to when you joined Wikipedia in 2003.

    More recently, you expressed a view at Lindzen’s talk page that his talk of the lack of statistical significance of warming over the last 14 years showed him as “statistically illiterate.”

    You seemed to be covering for your on-wiki supporter, the advocatee Professor John Quiggin, who had written at his blog,

    [Err no that wasn't why I wrote it. But we don't need to worry about that, I tbink -W]

    “Lindzen has published a couple of hundred papers in climatology, so I think we can assume he knows that the statement ‘there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995′ means nothing more than ‘given the variability in the data, we need at least 15 observations to reject the null hypothesis at 95 per cent confidence’, a fact so trite as not to be worth mentioning.”

    “It is sad to see a respected scientist reduced to this kind of thing.”

    Quiggin wasn’t the only one of course.

    So I’m curious to know what you think of the new Lyman et al. 2010 paper that’s suddenly appeared, which to me appears stage managed for a single purpose: to shut Pielke up (call me cynical).

    Anyhow from the abstract of Lyman et al. 2010:

    “Accounting for multiple sources of uncertainty, a composite of several OHCA curves using different XBT bias corrections still yields a statistically significant linear warming trend for 1993–2008 of 0.64 W m-2 (calculated for the Earth’s entire surface area), with a 90-per-cent confidence interval of 0.53–0.75 W m-2.”

    Now, 1993-2008 represents 15 years of observational data, really much the same number of years that Lindzen used.

    So I’m interested to know your view here: Are Lyman et al. “statistically illiterate” like Lindzen? Is it sad to see these respected scientists reduced to this sort of thing, or if not, what the heck is going on here?

    [I think not. My immeadiate reaction is that the two are not symmetrical: the point re Lindzen ( I think is the bit you mean) is that (a) my comment applies to "no warming since 1997" as well as the stat sig bit; (b) lack of a stat sig warming over a short-ish time period, especially if that time period has been cherry-picked, is not surprising. What is surprising is the *presence* of stat sig warming over a similar short time period. There is also (c) that Lyman are using a different dataset, which would be expected to have different noise properties - oceans tend to be less variable than the atmosphere, which makes the comparison difficult -W]

    For myself, I was intrigued to read the open and honest discussions between Pielke, Willis, Trenberth and Spencer. This sort of thing, on the other hand, is spooky.

    Have I misunderstood something?

  18. #18 P. Lewis

    [Err, do you mean this? Then you need to read that -W]

    Neither actually.

    When I Googled “snopes sixpence pirates true” I got to the page “ Mostly True Stories Sixpence Error” first. :-)

  19. #19 Adam

    Hadn’t spotted the other snopes pages – hadn’t even read the original either, otherwise I’d have linked it. Can’t remember where I first heard/read it – if I do I’ll point them at the “further info” page.

    The stupid thing is, even though it (the snopes pirate thing) turns out to be myth, it doesn’t really fail a “common sense” test like they say. Their version may not be entirely believable, but the idea that it was sung by pirates, had pirate undertones, was whistled by pirates etc. would all be believable if it wasn’t shown to be false.

    Anyway, those snopes pages are more interesting than the original myth – even if it does ruin my original joke. Oh well.

  20. #20 Hank Roberts

    SEPP was founded as “A non-profit, 501(c)3 educational group” — is it still in that category? I think in the US those are registered under state law? Which state?

    “… a 501(c)(3) educational organization, never advocates, and operates on tax-deductible donations.” (is that a legal limit on activities? What does SEPP do?)

    How is a majority of a Board of Directors calculated? Is it possible to have a quorum and approve corporate actions when the majority of the named directors do not attend a meeting or approve by proxy because they are dead?

  21. #21 Hank Roberts

    “The Science & Environmental Policy Project was incorporated in the state of Virginia in 1992, and established as a nonprofit, 501(c)3 educational organization in late 1993. ….”

    It looks like the dead guys are safe from being sued, at least after they’ve been dead a year:$FILE/virginia_caps_en.pdf

    A majority for voting apparently means a majority “of sitting directors” but it’s not clear how literally that’s meant.

    Seems like SEPP pretty much quit posting after 2006?

  22. #22 Hank Roberts

    “The Science & Environmental Policy Project was incorporated in the state of Virginia in 1992, and established as a nonprofit, 501(c)3 educational organization in late 1993. ….”

    It looks like the dead guys are safe from being sued, at least after they’ve been dead a year:$FILE/virginia_caps_en.pdf

    A majority for voting apparently means a majority “of sitting directors” but it’s not clear how literally that’s meant.

    Seems like SEPP pretty much quit posting after 2006?

  23. #23 John Mashey

    Re #17
    As W says, but more generally:
    a) Statistical significance is often treated as a bimodal thing, which is really silly, whose silliness is especially obvious when you add one more datapoint and the result suddenly jumps from not significant to significant.
    b) People often seem to think there us some magic X of number of datapoints required (like the way X=~30 sometimes shows up in some areas of statistics). But as W says it really depends on the noise characteristics, relative to any underlying trend.
    That is, if noise is 5x bigger than yearly trend, you need more years to have confidence of the trend than if the trend were bigger than the noise.
    For example, it doesn’t take many years to see the trend in the Keeling Curve.

  24. #24 Steve Bloom

    Re #17: Alex, the key thing to understand about RP Sr. is that he is largely a public relations problem rather than a scientific one.

  25. #25 Nosmo

    Re #22: Steve can you unpack that a bit more.

  26. #26 silence

    Socialist Misfit: the 2009 form isn’t yet available from Guidestar, a service which collects them and makes them easily available. If they’ve actually filed one (and nonprofits often file late or miss a year) you could request one from the IRS.

  27. #27 Paul Kelly


    What exactly is the public relations problem Pielke Sr. presents? I know that scientifically he seems determined to prove land use is as great or greater a forcer(?) of temperature as CO2 and is a low sensitivity guy. Whose public relations do his views harm?

    Singer must have grown up in a rent controlled building where great-aunts remain leaseholders long after passing.

  28. #28 PurpleOzone

    Where is your evidence that Singer was once “sane”?

    He grandstanded science in the newspapers. I tried to read a couple of his papers back when and found only hand-waving and non sequiturs. I thought him a fraud way back when. JMO

    [To be fair, I haven't paid much attention to his early career or papers; all I know is that they we're wildly septic. He seems to have got a reputation as having had a respectable career - though whether that reputation has any substance I don't know; sources are thin; try for example -W]

  29. #29 John Mashey

    re: #26 PurpleOzone.
    “evidence of sanity”?
    In #7 I mentioned the Oreskes/Conway book.
    See pp.83-84, in which Singer is observed to have been an environmentalist in the 1960s, and as late as 1970, with quotes then totally opposite what he’s been saying since.

  30. #30 TrueSceptic

    26 PurpleOzone,

    I suggest he was OK until at least 1971. His anti-environmental obsessions are more recent, AFAIK.

  31. #31 Eli Rabett

    As Eli pointed out a long while ago, what SEPP is, is a tax shelter for a guy too old to qualify for a retirement account (in the US, once you get as old as Fred you have to take money out of your retirement account, not put more in)

  32. #32 Alex Harvey

    Steve Bloom #23,

    Pielke is not the public relations problem here.

    After I read the email exchanges between Pielke, Willis, and Trenberth,

    [Unfortunately, I don't know what exchanges you mean. I don't even know which Pielke you mean! Please provide some links -W]

    I had, presumably along with thousands of the other open-minded readers from the general public, concluded that there were interesting issues being discussed. And that’s obviously because, well, there are. A respected scientist on one side, Trenberth, disagreed with a respected scientist on the other side, Willis. Pielke had politely hosted the discussion, and as it happened, Willis supported him.

    And, look, this isn’t quantum physics. It’s buried beneath layers of uninterpretable mathematics. It’s fairly easy for the layperson, with enough curiosity, to understand this stuff.

    Now I’ll tell you where the public relations problem is: A paper called “Robust Warming of the global upper ocean” with Josh Willis somehow, um, persuaded, to sign it. The public is expected to just swallow this whole. We are so stupid that we’ll be fobbed off by the word “Robust!” and not immediately see that, unlike Pielke’s hosted email exchange, it is totally devoid of new content; it contributes nothing to the debate. And a day later, Gavin Schmidt declares victory at RealClimate, apparently hoping that our attention spans don’t extend back beyond a fortnight to the email exchange.

    Trying to play the general public as fools is the public relations problem. If Pielke is wrong, then patient, open discussion with him would in time show this to be the case. Pretending you can’t hear him just makes people think that he must have something very, very interesting to say.

  33. #33 Vinny Burgoo

    How about Cap’n Fred, he talks to the dead? Thanks to Singer’s resemblance to Cap’n Birdseye, you wouldn’t have to do your own artwork.

  34. #34 Marco

    @Alex Harvey:
    Patient discussions with Roger Pielke Sr. lead nowhere. He moves goalposts, supposedly does not understand the issues, etc. etc. etc.

    You may want to look up the discussions at James Annan and Michael Tobis about Klotzbach et al, and Pielke’s reactions (forget Jr for the moment, he *appeared* to understand and acknowledge some of the criticisms, I’m talking about Sr.).

    Anyway, William, Alex is pointing to this:
    and makes it believe that Willis somehow “persuaded to sign it”. Of course, Willis more than likely agrees with the analysis…

    [Oh well, that looks like fairly std Pielke Sr. Yes he is obsessed with using the ocean heat content as his metric; yes he routinely writes his responses in ways that try to twist people's words into looking like they argree with him. The actual true position is fairly clear: that the ocean heat content data isn't as good for long-term monitoring as the surface temperature data, but that *recent* OHC data may be about as good (but not better than) the surface stuff. It isn't clear to me why this is supposed to be particularly interesting.

    Back to Alex: his Pielke had politely hosted the discussion, and as it happened, Willis supported him. is wrong. And with Josh Willis somehow, um, persuaded, to sign it - where did you get that from? Did you just invent it? Come along now, how can people take you seriously if you do this? -W]


  35. #35 Brian Schmidt

    #20 Hank: 501 c/3 organizations can advocate for specific legislation so long as they stay within certain limits. Not sure what SmartVoter is talking about, except that c/3 orgs cannot ever advocate for a candidate for office.

    More generally, this SEPP “Weekend at Bernie’s” tactic seems to be the septic (sepptic?) response to the problem of scientific advancement, one funeral at a time.

  36. #36 Carl C

    Fred Singer told me this kid will grow up just fine:

    it’s funny how skeptics love Singer and conveniently ignore his crazy past saying smoking is fine & dandy, CFCs don’t affect ozone, etc. He pretty much believes whatever his financiers tell him to support. But somehow it’s the “rich” climate scientists that are all in it for the money (yeah the big bucks in academia). The richest scientist I know has his money thanks to his wife, not from gov’t grants! :-)

  37. #37 Alex Harvey

    William, I assumed everyone had read this public email exchange so sorry for not providing the links. Which part of this — “his Pielke had politely hosted the discussion, and as it happened, Willis supported him” is wrong? As for Josh Willis “signing” (coauthoring) the Lyman et al. paper, I am simply saying that in the context of this email exchange, it looks odd that Willis is a co-author on this paper. It doesn’t seem to express the same view as in the email exchanges, although I only have RealClimate’s summary of it and the abstract (it’s behind a paywall…).

    [Willis wasn't supporting Pielke. Unless you're familiar with the background, you have to be very careful reading Pielke Sr - he is deceptive, I think deliberately so, in representing other people's positions. I was certainly true the only time we ever discussed stuff (I wrote a published commentary on one of his paper that was critical of his; he pretended I agreed with him). In this case, RP's position is that "global warming" is best measured by OHC. Willis disagrees with that -W]

  38. #38 Tony Sidaway

    Alex, why not email Josh Willis directly for clarification of his view? Your speculations here and at Real Climate can only conceivably elicit interpretations from others, which you’re obviously not satisfied with, so the obvious thing to do is to get it from the horse’s mouth.

  39. #39 Hank Roberts

    Alex Harvey asks:

    “Which part of [quoted string] is wrong?”

    I don’t know. Do you? Google doesn’t know:

    No results found for “his Pielke had politely hosted the discussion, and as it happened, Willis supported him”

    It’s not the odd first word in your supposed quote:

    No results found for “Pielke had politely hosted the discussion, and as it happened, Willis supported him”

    Perhaps you should look it up first, _then_ ask him.

  40. #40 PurpleOzone

    #28, 29, in reference to #27
    I noticed Singer’s great achievements in publicity in the 1950′s. I tried to find evidence in the 1960′s, when I was professional, that Singer had research competence. His publicity far exceeded his research output. (Check the Washington Post archives or Time Magazine for early publicity.)

    I knew or met several Nobel prize winners, at least a hundred outstanding scientists, a lot of solid, productive research scientists (including me) and lots of reasonable, useful scientists. I also met on S. F. Singer on several occasions.

    I tried hard to find one scientist who would endorse Fred, as a check on my own negativity. (He may have an accomplishment in the 1950′s when he co-authored a paper describing an experiment to measure ozone, I don’t know). I never heard a positive word about him from anybody; one guy used the word “hated”; another played a joke on him because he thought Singer a social retard (another issue).
    Fred always had an air he knew science better than others, and criticized (always politely) entire fields on vague grounds with the air that he was smarter than others. (Oreskes and Conway refer to this, but I can’t immediately find the page number. They call Singer a physicist on page 5; his PhD was Electrical Engineering.)

    Singer has always sounded “bright”, he’s always been good at garnering media attention, he’s always been a top-notch self-promotion. He’s actually as “sane” as ever. Those who think somehow he’s deteriorated due to aging, no, he’s the same as ever.

    I first heard of greenhouse gases (1964 or 65) when Mariner got the first measurements of Venus’s temperature: hotter than an oven. Singer was likely at that conference and should have understood the message buzzing around the conference: Humans adding Co2 could heat the earth.

    If anybody had told me a scientist I knew would later diss global warming, my first guess would have been:
    S. F. Singer. Based on my character assessment in the early 1960s.

  41. #41 PurpleOzone

    Hank Roberts: Thanks for the comment about Singer’s “nonprofit educational” institution. Good points. Also, aren’t nonprofits required to expend 5% of funds to their charity purposes every year? Does SEPP?

  42. #42 John Mashey

    #39 PurpleOzone
    See p.82 of Oreskes&Conway regarding Singer & his ways of antagonizing other scientists … which is consistent with your comments.

    W’s use of “sane” may not have been precise.

    Regardless of Fred’s personality [after all, there have been some fine scientists who were "difficult", like Shockley], O&C Singer was actually saying some sensible things on environmental issues ~1970, like:

    - agreeing with Roger Revelle that humans were (badly) affecting the environment.
    - arguing that we could not wait until we knew everything

    But he clearly changed shortly thereafter, although not in personality.

  43. #43 Jim Prall

    PurpleOzone – thanks for the input on the early history. Would you happen to remember more identifying info on that 1960s conference – either the name, city or sponsor?

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