Fred Seitz, the $45 million man

Mark Hertsgaard has an excellent article in Vanity Fair
exposing the war on climate science. For instance:

Call him the $45 million man. That's how much money Dr. Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, helped R. J. Reynolds Industries, Inc., give away to fund medical research in the 1970s and 1980s. The research avoided the central health issue facing Reynolds -- "They didn't want us looking at the health effects of cigarette smoking," says Seitz, who is now 94 -- but it nevertheless served the tobacco industry's purposes. Throughout those years, the industry frequently ran ads in newspapers and magazines citing its multi-million-dollar research program as proof of its commitment to science -- and arguing that the evidence on the health effects of smoking was mixed.

In the 1990s, Seitz began arguing that the science behind global warming was likewise inconclusive and certainly didn't warrant imposing mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. He made his case vocally, trashing the integrity of a 1995 I.P.C.C. report on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal, signing a letter to the Clinton administration accusing it of misrepresenting the science, and authoring a paper which said that global warming and ozone depletion were exaggerated threats devised by environmentalists and unscrupulous scientists pushing a political agenda. In that same paper, Seitz asserted that secondhand smoke posed no real health risks, an opinion he repeats in our interview. "I just can't believe it's that bad," he says.

Al Gore and others have said, but generally without offering evidence, that the people who deny the dangers of climate change are like the tobacco executives who denied the dangers of smoking. The example of Frederick Seitz, described here in full for the first time, shows that the two camps overlap in ways that are quite literal -- and lucrative. Seitz earned approximately $585,000 for his consulting work for R. J. Reynolds, according to company documents unearthed by researchers for the Greenpeace Web site and confirmed by Seitz. Meanwhile, during the years he consulted for Reynolds, Seitz continued to draw a salary as president emeritus at Rockefeller University, an institution founded in 1901 and subsidized with profits from Standard Oil, the predecessor corporation of ExxonMobil.

DCI Group, a public relations company working for ExxonMobil has put out a press release contesting some of Hertsgaard's piece. Nick Schulz writes:

To find out if the startling claim was true -- that Seitz "directed a 45M tobacco industry effort to hide health impacts of smoking" -- I called him at his apartment in Manhattan. Unless there is more to the story, the accusation appears to be a willful distortion, if not an outright lie.

"That's ridiculous, completely wrong," Seitz told me. "The money was all spent on basic science, medical science," he said.

Unfortunately for Schulz and Seitz, it's all documented in the tobacco documents and anyone can read why the tobacco companies were funding this research. Eli Rabett has been reading them:

By going through the tobacco documents archive, I was able to piece together a rather damning sequence of documents which shows exactly what Seitz has been about.

Seitz signs on:

May 1979
Pg 1
There are abundant reasons for R-J-R to place a priority on research, particularly on smoking and health research. One is that our sense of integrity dictates that we respond directly to a fundamental attack on our business. Another is that if we can refute the criticisms against cigarettes, we may remove government's excuse for imposing heavy taxes on the product. ... A third reason is that there are a large number of crucial questions that need scientific answers in the area of smoking and health.

Pg 7
In evaluating and monitoring the special projects that we fund -- particularly the sole-sponsorship programs -- R.J. Reynolds Industries has secured the services of a permanent consultant -- Dr. Frederick Seitz, former president of Rockefeller

There's much more, including this one, which shows what the tobacco companies thought of Seitz:

DATE: August 31, 1989
I spoke to Bill Hobbs about arranging an appointment for you with Dr. Fred Seitz, former head of Rockefeller University and the principal scientific advisor to the R. J. Reynolds medical research program. Bill told me that Dr. Seitz is quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice. Bill said that he would strongly recommend your speaking to Dr. Alfred G. Knudson Jr. of the CTR Scientific Advisory Board.


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Sounds like what Ross Gelbspan describes as "corruption disguised as conservatism."

By Stephen Berg (not verified) on 17 Apr 2006 #permalink

Dear oh dear oh dear.

The only positive thing that one can say about the article is that it encapsulates all of the lunatic pro-AGW 'evidence' in one spot, which saves people having to look around for it.

No science, no evidence, no discussion of the reality of failed methodology, nil, nada, nothing. Kevin Phillip Bong got more votes than there is evidence presented in VF's vacuous article. Hansen, Gore, same old, same old...the record is broken.

Of course, I must be a shill to hold such a view.

By Jack Lacton (not verified) on 19 Apr 2006 #permalink

"Hansen, Gore, same old, same old...the record is broken."

Al Gore indeed. First thing I saw when opening the article to a random place, serendipitiously:
"Ask Al Gore how to avoid dangerous climate change and, despite his wonkish reputation, he doesn't begin by talking about hybrid cars or carbon sequestration. No, says Gore, the first imperative is to "punch through the massive denial and resistance" that still exist in the United States."

"Of course, I must be a shill to hold such a view." Well, at least such self-skepticism holds forth the prospect of hope.

Well, gee, Jack,

An article that is not about evidence for AGW, but rather primarily about the politics of AGW, and methods by which some people oppose or attack those who's science supports positions that threaten their financial interests, contains evidence about those modes of attack, and not about AGW.

And this certainly discredits an article about the politics of AGW, because as all true AGW deniers know it is necessary to marshall all of the mountains of research on the issue very time one talks about anything to do with AGW. But this article merely included evidence in support of what it claimed and was actually about, and cited background info to support the importance of the issue. How utterly discrediting is **THAT**? (insert sarcasm flag here).

And actually, the article's support for it's background AGW claims was at least as compelling as the criteria stated by the American Petroleum Geologists in praising a certain well-known rigorous critique of the AGW hypothesis. "It has the absolute ring of truth." Even better; it's not even fiction.

I will be pleased to draw your attention to an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canda from Sixty scientists concerning the Kyoto protocol.

[Thanks, but I already blogged about it.]

Well, there goes my opinion of Freeman Dyson...

Observational evidence does not support today's computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future.

Does anybody know what the hell they're talking about here? Climate models are based on observational evidence; the fact that they can explain observational evidence is why we trust them to make accurate predictions.

It was only 30 years ago that many of today's global-warming alarmists were telling us that the world was in the midst of a global-cooling catastrophe.

It's Climate Skeptic Bingo time!

However, by convening open, unbiased consultations, Canadians will be permitted to hear from experts on both sides of the debate in the climate-science community.

Teach the controversy!

What an entirely worthless piece of writing. Everybody attached to it should be ashamed.

By brokenlibrarian (not verified) on 21 Apr 2006 #permalink