Case of the Dead Climate Zombie

Posted on February 15, 2012


I’ve said it before.  The world of climate denial is like a zombie movie.

Debunk, disprove and unmask climate deniers over and over again.

Render body blows to their credibility which would be the finish of legitimate scholars.

Professionally, that ought to be the end of them.  That ought to be enough to send them to professional purgatory and death.

But you can’t keep a good climate zombie down.  Called forth from scholarly graves by the power and magic of oil money, they lurch on regardless.


See Zombiegate: The Climate Denial Zombies Who Would Not Lie Down

But really, when I was writing about zombies before, I mostly meant that figuratively.  However, some devilishly clever and resourceful folks over in the climate denial lobby weren’t satisfied with mere figurative zombies.  Why stop with metaphor, they thought?  Consider the case of Fred Seitz.  He was a gentleman who towards the end of his career in climate denial shared more than one quality with actual zombies.

Up to and including being dead.

Now Dr. Frederick Seitz in his pre-zombie days wasn’t what you would call a respectable scholar or anything.  Back in the 1970s, when he probably still had most of his marbles, he accepted big money from Big Tobacco to help deny the connection between tobacco smoking and cancer.  Partly as a result of his efforts, a lot of people almost certainly died of cancer who might otherwise have lived.

Fred worked for Big Tobacco, putting his name to highly questionable scientific studies, up to the late 1980s.  Somewhere in there he began to lose his marbles.  In fact, by 1989 an internal memo by his employer Philip Morris stated that “Dr. Seitz is quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice.”

Thus, whatever you might think about the morality of Dr. Seitz becomes irrelevant by 1989, by which time, because of a progressive and advancing disease of the mind, he is no longer responsible for his actions.

Not at the end of his useful professional life for your enterprising zombie-meister, however.

In 1998, a full nine years after he was deemed too loony for the tobacco lobby, Dr. Seitz’s signature appears on a letter that accompanies the notorious “Oregon Petition.”  Dr. Seitz, in a more respectable era of his life (before his involvement with Big Tobacco and before his, by then, long-standing senility) had been president of the National Academy of Sciences, and this is made clear in the letter.  Accompanying the letter and petition is a climate denial paper laid out in the precise format of the prestigious, peer-reviewed “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”  But in fact the paper was neither peer-reviewed nor defensible science.  The “Oregon Petition” scandal drew a rebuke from no less than the National Academy of Sciences itself, in a practically unprecedented move.  They wrote:

The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists and to rally them in an attempt to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol.  The petition was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science.

                        See Simple Sam & His Dubious 31,000

Poor Dr. Fred.  Non compos mentis or not, while he had a piece of reputation left to shred, the professional climate change deniers were going to shred it on his behalf.

Nor were they finished with him.  It has come out recently that professional climate change denier S. Fred Singer listed Dr. Seitz as the Chair of the Science and Environmental Policy Project for two full years after Dr. Seitz died!

Now that’s getting full use from your zombie.


Many more delicious details of the unfolding scandal emanating from the notorious Heartland Institute at DeSmogBlog.  You can start here: