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Thu Mar 26, 2020, 09:13 AM

Same Science Denial That Fed COVID 19 Drives Climate Breakdown; Unlike The Virus, It Will Not Pass


It wasn’t only President Trump who questioned the science, of course. The voices who are skilled at promoting scientific uncertainty and denialism — Fox News commentators and right-wing radio voices like Rush Limbaugh for example — downplayed the threat posed by the virus, accusing Trump’s political opponents of using it to hurt the president. The DeSmog blog has a long list of statements questioning the seriousness of the threat posed by Covid-19, made by experts at the corporate-funded think tanks and web organizations that for years have questioned the science on the climate crisis and defended the dangerous products and pollutants their sponsors produce. Having been fed a diet of anti-science rhetoric for years, it is not surprising that Republicans are far less likely to follow social distancing, hand washing, and other recommendations.

The slow and ineffectual actions by already impaired federal agencies were no doubt influenced by the lack of urgency from the White House. There was little recognition of the need to rapidly ramp up testing, or that the strategic stockpile was bereft of the necessary respirators and ventilators. As a result, it will be many weeks before the nation will have an adequate testing program or provide the personal protective equipment or ventilators our health care workers desperately need to safely diagnose and care for patients infected by the virus.

In this case, it wasn’t the Republican party’s fealty to its corporate backers that blinded the White House to good science. There is evidence that President Trump initially saw rising case numbers as a poor reflection on his leadership, likely to undermine his re-election prospects. But once he recognized it was no longer possible to wish away the epidemic, the deniers folded quickly and are now helping warn the country of the importance of controlling the virus. But rather than acknowledge that he ever held a different position, he is attempting to rewrite history, denying statements millions heard him make only weeks ago.

Unfortunately, there are other looming global catastrophes like the climate crisis and the spread of antibiotic resistant “superbugs,” threats that are happening over years rather than days. It would be heartening if President Trump and the leadership of the Republican party came to the same epiphany about these challenges, recognizing that only through concerted global actions can we slow and perhaps halt these looming disasters. There will no doubt be many lessons of this pandemic, but one is that the public health infrastructure, highly resourced, staffed with the top scientists, and empowered to take action to reduce public health risks, is no less important than the Department of Defense in protecting the nation. A second lesson is that without a leader who recognizes the importance of science and values the advice of scientists, the health of the nation will be imperiled.



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