Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Note About Roger Revelle, Justin Lancaster and Fred Singer

As somebunnies may remember, S. Fred Singer is quite proud of an article in the magazine of the Cosmos Club (a club for movers and shakers in DC) written by Fred Singer and Chauncey Starr that had Roger Revelle's name on it. How Revelle's name got there beyond the fact that Fred Singer put it there is a matter of interest that is explained by Justin Lancaster, Revelle's student and last assistant. Lancaster, to put it softly, was quite skeptical that Revelle was in any meaningful sense an author of that paper and said so.  Singer SLAPPED and got a statement from Lancaster as a settlement

Eli has written about this where you can get up to speed on the whole thing. Of course since Al Gore learned about climate change from Roger Revelle, this has become a stick to beat Gore with. 

Today, Justin Lancaster left a note at Rabett Run, that needs to be repeated
I would have skipped weighing in further on this topic, except (1) it seems to never recede into history (it's surfacing in Climate Change discussions on Facebook in September 2014), and (2) my dear cousin Walter, for whom I hold sincere respect, clearly needs an update (I wish he'd contacted me directly before adding to this slog).

So let's be clear:

1. Fred Singer is the most unethical scientist, in my opinion, that I have ever met. I said so in the early 1990s, publicly, and I am still confident in the truth of this statement.

2. The worst decision I ever made in my life was to provide a retraction of my statements in the early 1990s about Singer's nastiness. The retraction was coerced. It was required to stop the SLAPP suit brought against me by a conservative think-tank in Washington that wanted to keep Fred Singer in action.

3. I was 95% certain that I would win my case in court. But my wife was terrified. In fact, she was terrorized by this lawsuit. We had three young children. I was a Harvard postdoc now needing to find a next academic posting. She was a graduate student at Harvard. My wife was worried about that 5% risk. She was scared we could lose our house and all our assets. We new it would be a 2-3 year ordeal that would drain our resources and attention. The folks at NRDC and EDF chose to not step in; we couldn't afford the $100k+ that the lawsuit would cost. Defending for a year took an enormous amount of my time. That is the meanness and force of a SLAPP suit.

4. Singer distorted my words in his legal complaint and then even more so in his publication in the Hoover Institution volume. Singer flat out lied in that text about my role (and his wife, Candace Crandall contributed to this smear campaign). This chapter is not a sworn statement.

5. My testimony about what happened is sworn under oath, under penalty of perjury. I am an officer of the courts of VT, MA, CA and CO.

6. Everything I said was true. In my negotiations with the 8 lawyers from two national law firms, in which we scripted the retraction, I refused to state that anything I said was untrue. I never admitted to lying, because I never lied.

7. In the coerced retraction, I allowed that my remarks were "unwarranted," because my mother had commonly used that word when conveying to us that we need not have behaved the way we did. I realized that I could have proceeded more carefully and privately with Singer (which I initially had tried to do) and that I need not have made the issue so public. I also realized that because I was not in Revelle's office during the key session between Singer and Revelle, that I could have let Christa's affidavit and the galley proofs themselves speak the story. (Of course that was already hindsight, as Singer would not provide the galley proofs; I only got them from the Scripps archivist the night before my deposition of Singer).

8. I regret allowing the word "unwarranted" in the coerced retraction, because in fact my charges were fully justified when made. It was a three-hour negotiation, because Singer's lawyers wanted me to admit that I made false statements, but I refused. When my lawyer and I stood to quit the negotiation, saying "We'll be happy to see you in court in MA," there was a flurry of "Wait, wait," across the table. Eventually we settled on the word "unwarranted."

9. I never worked for Al Gore, I was not in any way involved in his political campaign and I had nothing to do with Gore's office other than getting a clip from him for a film on Roger's career that was shown in a film at the Rio Earth Summit. My entire focus was on a wrong being done to Roger Revelle's career and Roger's concern for the Earth environment and for humanity.

10. I had formed, in 1987, a non-profit named: "Environmental Science & Policy Institute (ESPI)," ESPI was the only non-governmental organization presenting scientific results at the 2nd World Climate Conference in Geneva, where I served on the Synthesis Committee. ESPI was an NGO registered at the Earth Summit. I was speaking widely at Dartmouth, Harvard, UC and other fora on the science and policy related to the carbon dioxide problem. I served on the NOAA Citizen Advisory Panel and was the first Chair of the Global Change Working Group within the Society for Risk Assessment.

11. Fred Singer started his "Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)" in the early 1990s, practically in direct opposition to ESPI.

12. Singer was associated with an energy-industry-backed cabal, comprising of at least Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling, and loosely coupling Hugh Ellsaesser, Richard Lindzen and some others. I was known to most or all of these folks through face-to-face encounters academically and in governmental meetings.

13. I had hoped that, after having been found with his hand in the cookie jar, Singer would have the good grace to leave this sordid issue in the historical dust bin. Giving him the retraction and apology I hoped would be sufficient. But it was not and he did not put it down. Instead he raised this issue prominently in the public eye, publishing my retraction in newspapers and blatantly misrepresenting the history in the Hoover chapter. And his cabal echoed it all widely to their key blogging network. And that has continued to cascade through many blogging layers, for now more than twenty years!

14. In 2006, when Gore has published his "An Inconvenient Truth," this all erupted again, and I determined that enough is enough. I publicly and unequivocally repudiated and retracted the earlier "Retraction" that had been coerced, and I published the court documents and supporting affidavits and documentation so that people could read it for themselves.

15. The documentation is available online at Cosmos Myth

16. Singer and his supporters did not respond to my 2006 publication because they have no case. AGW is an issue of public concern. Singer is a celebrity in this field, perhaps the leading contrarian, skeptic, denier at the head of the pack for almost two decades. There are no objective canons of ethics in science (unlike for lawyers), so my charge of unethical can only mean "in my opinion" and "based on my standards." Not only do I believe my statements to be true, I have substantial evidence backing them up. And, we now have anti-SLAPP legislation in Massachusetts.

17. This entire episode has been investigated by journalists, described in chapters in two books, become the subject of a play and other media. Despite the bloggers who seem to continue to enjoy piling on the smear while ignoring the factual evidence, I'm comfortable with the outcome of the former more careful and thorough inspections.

Eli is grateful for Justin Lancaster's courage and setting the record straight. 


Magma said...

Thank you for giving this detailed explanation the exposure it deserves.

Lancaster's decision, though regrettable in hindsight, was entirely understandable at the time given the extreme pressures put on him and the lack of support available to him. His is certainly a case supporting the thinking behind the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.

Lars Karlsson said...

By the way, there appears to be an HTML error at point 15 (like an unclosed < A HREF="..:">).

Magnus said...

Sadly not surprise...

Lionel A said...

Thank you for posting this.

Over recent years whilst commenting at other blogs I have often pointed out how badly Singer behaved on a number of occasions during the life of travesty. I was just so angry, and sorry for Justin (I have found the name Justin elsewhere not Julian?), when I learned of this. Then there was Lindzen (and others) adding his own little twist which was picked up by Eli here many moons ago. I have linked to that often too.

It was one of those things that determined me to find out more about the science and post in blogs.

EliRabett said...

Eli is mildly dyslexic (eg reads too fast) apologies

Lionel A said...

No worries Eli, I am dyslexic too, gave me no end of trouble in my early years (although they hadn't invented it back then), and for a time afterwards, I could read and understand technical drawings just like that but words were tougher.

Ed Darrell said...

It's not called "a trial" for nothing. Once into litigation, generally even the winning side goes through the wringer.

So there is no shame in getting out of a trial, especially for good reasons (I've done so myself, at great personal cost; many such cases).

Truth doesn't have to be sacrificed, however. Just keep speaking it.

Magma said...

On looking at Justin Lancaster's personal website and CV, I was stunned to see that he had a law degree and was a practicing attorney *before* getting his Ph.D. in science.

If someone with that background can be intimidated into silence... wow.

EliRabett said...

Ed, have you seen this judgement about education in Texas, Appears to Eli as exactly your thing.

Dano said...

Thank you Eli. Make sure it isn't disappeared.



Anonymous said...

Anon n+1

The Revelle-Gore Story: Attempted Political Suppression of Science

Lionel A said...


'If someone with that background can be intimidated into silence... wow.'

What is it about the disparity of fiscal resources and employment vulnerability do you not understand?

Also, read what Ed Darrell wrote.

Magma said...

@ Lionel A: the comment was in consideration to an observation that non-lawyers are generally more easily intimidated by the threat of lawsuits than legal professionals, something that should not be particularly controversial.

Feel free to read my first comment, and to skip the snotty tone.

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny says:

Eli, I've followed Singer's trajectory for over 60 years -- will post way too many findings on his 'science' and character comments after I catch a plane. I have never seen anyone else like him, thankfully.

Lionel A said...


"@ Lionel A: the comment was in consideration to an observation that non-lawyers are generally more easily intimidated by the threat of lawsuits than legal professionals,..."

That was already considered, I didn't consider it worth further elucidation being rather obvious.

Your first comment disappeared from my cognition overnight and I did not pick up on it again as I scanned the thread.

Whatever, your (second) statement on its own to which I replied left the idea hanging that you had not considered the points I raised.

So, no need for the snark.

Magma said...

@ Lionel A, I try to limit snark to a tit-for-tat basis.

So consider it over and done with.

Lionel A said...


My thoughts exactly. I had intended to add that sort of comment at the end of my last but had a senior moment and forgot.

Sorry about that, I guess we are on the same page.

Interesting handle, quite interested in volcanology myself. I once walked up the caldera of Vesuvius and took pictures looking into and across the crater. There is an even bigger one potentially not far away - now that may register on the climate change scale if it goes off.

Anonymous said...

I really want to see Snow Bunny's findings on Fred Singer! I have my suspicions that unethical doesn't even begin to describe Singer!


Mal Adapted said...

Magma: "If someone with [Justin's] background can be intimidated into silence... wow."

From the comment by Justin that Eli linked in the OP, it sounds like he acceded to his wife's fears of financial ruin.

"He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune, for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief." —Francis Bacon.

Can a SLAPP, as a weapon of plutocracy, be considered to represent "fortune"? You decide.


Singer's post-Department of Transportation day job was as a strawfoot professional witness for the leading patent trolls of the day.

Susan Anderson said...

Just a note of thanks for putting this on the record. It comes in handy from time to time. It's amazing that one man (Singer) can have so much potential for evil (not that others are blameless, but his outsized impact is tragic).

Unknown said...

I'm sorry that this happened in the days before Kickstarter. I'd hope that today we could all underwrite a defense against these crimes against truth and humanity.

Susan Anderson said...

Had occasion, after quoting your "Posturing" piece over at YCC (Jeff Masters/Bob Henson's new home, which allows lively play in the comment section, also much updating on weather*), to post this.

If my father ever hated anyone, it was Fred Singer. Singer tried to recruit him when he was young and they were at some party.

This is one of the classiest posts I've ever seen!

Susan Anderson said...

Oops, forgot the * - link to YCC

Susan Anderson said...

Still a classic. Jon Schwartz who moved on from NYTimes to The Intercept did a review of Oreskes/Conway new book which mentioned Singer's early work dismantling civilized society in favor of wealth and power (market fundamentalism). Why can't awful people just fade away?

The Big Myth About “Free” Markets That Justified History’s Greatest Heist
A recent book details how the top 10 percent stole $47 trillion via intellectual warfare