Of experts and global warming

To the editor:

Vin Suprynowicz (May 24) writes that global warming (if it is happening, which he disputes) is actually good for us. To document his case, Mr. Suprynowicz recommends the Web site of Howard Maccabee, Ph.D., M.D., the founder of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.

I checked out Dr. Maccabee’s Web site ( and found out that his M.D. is in radiation oncology, and his Ph D. is in radiation biophysics. He has absolutely no background whatsoever in the science of climate change.

The next time that I have a medical appointment, I plan to ask the doctor’s opinion about global climate change. Dr. Maccabee has about the same climate-related expertise as any doctor, dentist, nurse, chiropractor or physical therapist.

Despite his utter lack of relevant expertise, Dr. Maccabee was a speaker at a Climate Change Conference in 2008, hosted by the Heartland Institute, which is funded by the Scaife Foundation, by Exxon-Mobil, and by Koch Foundations (funded by Koch Industries, the nation’s largest privately held energy company).

Dr. Maccabee’s Web site reveals some astounding beliefs: He not only scoffs at the danger of global warming, he also doesn’t believe in the reality of the ozone hole. He doesn’t believe that HIV causes AIDS. And his Web site features “Nuclear War Survival Skills” (!), which is what “Disaster Preparedness” is about.

Mr. Suprynowicz is supremely confident that the effect of global warming will be benign. I’m not so sure. As the Earth warms, some places will be better off and some will be worse off. Canada will likely have a longer growing season. But here in the Mojave desert, the main fear is a severe drought. We are in a drought right now, demonstrated by the alarming drop in the water level in Lake Mead: down 100 feet since 2000, and now at its lowest level in 44 years.

The current drought may not be proven with complete certainty to be the result of global warming, in the sense of proving a mathematical theorem. But the drought is certainly consistent with global warming. And it could get worse: Researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego warned in February 2008 that there is a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead will dry up completely by 2021, only a dozen years in the future. That would be a disaster for Las Vegas and the desert southwest.

At the very least, Mr. Suprynowicz ought to take the possible consequences of global warming far more seriously than he does.

John W. Farley



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