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Podcast / Audio

Science, the pandemic, and how the coming election is a crossroads for climate change

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Joel Stronberg's picture
President The JBS Group

Stronberg is a senior executive and attorney with over 40 years of experience in federal and state energy, environmental and sustainability issues. He is the founder and principal of The JBS...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Jun 9, 2020
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The COVID-19 contagion shows once again the disdain President Trump and his administration have for science-based policies and actions. Over these past months Trump has suggested that the coronavirus would just go away with the heat of the summer, touted his natural genius for the practice of medicine, and implied that a Clorox cocktail might make the sick well again.

His statements about the contagion closely parallel those he's made about the scientific basis of climate change--its origins and solutions. Just recently the President has signed a new executive order using the pandemic as an excuse to waive the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)  as they apply to energy infrastructure projects like oil and gas pipelines. The Order is based on what legal experts believe is an intentional misreading of the emergency provisions of various environmental laws like the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts.

The podcast addresses how climate will be treated by both Trump and former Vice President Biden in the run-up to the November elections--including how the President has compromised the nation's leadership in the world on energy and climate matters.

 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 9, 2020

The dismaying dismissal of healthcare-related science has become not so surprising once I mentally put it in parallel with the anti-science rhetoric by those pushing against climate action, a fight a take up on a daily basis. I think there are more curious and open-minded people than not in total who will listen to the scientists out there, but sometimes I'm left to wonder-- will we ever get back to a point where science is science and the outcomes of that scientific work isn't politicized for those who don't like where the conclusions lie? Or are we too far gone? What do you think, Joel? 

Joel Stronberg's picture
Joel Stronberg on Jun 9, 2020

Matt,

I don't think we're too far gone. Although it is clear that truth has taken a beating over the past decade or two--never more than in the last 3 1/2 years. The pandemic gives reason both to worry and to cheer.

Consider the large number of people in the US and elsewhere who are following Nancy Reagan's advice and just saying "NO." Boris Johnson tried to open the schools in the UK and parents wouldn't let their children show up. One for the people.

Similar things are happening in the US. Restaurants around me are opening to inside dining and very few people are willing to risk dinner if it could mean serious illness or death. I visited with friends over the weekend--as we sat outside with masks and gloves they told me their companies would probably keep older employees working from home until a vaccine was found. It may be next year before that happens and, yet, companies are reflecting the value they put on their workers.

I've actually been quite impressed with how most in the nation have been willing to adopt a "wartime" mentality--notwithstanding anything Trump has to say about things.

Unfortunately, there are still significant numbers of the population who remain steadfast in their belief that the pandemic and science in general are lies perpetuated by others to prevent Trump from governing and being re-elected. I admit to bewidlerment, but that's me.

What I really worry about is an incomplete societal response to the contagion and climate change. Notwithstanding the willingness of an overwhelming number to take the science of things as fact, the taking seems to be time-constrained for many. What I mean by this is that after 3 months the conclusions of science seem to be less valid and urgent than they were initially. What's changed?

Combatting climate change is a long-term proposition. The future can be very bright in terms of the economy and quality of life. However, getting there just isn't going to happen quickly. We're speaking of a cultural change--even with today's technology change only happens so quickly.

The first order of business in my judgement needs to be de-politicizing science and its messengers. We witnessed Drs Fauci and Birx going from heroes to bums in the minds of many Republicans and in a relatively short period of time.

I'm not condemning Republicans out of hand. My statement is based on the multiple surveys by Gallup, Pew Research, and others. And, it's not that I'm even suggesting that those who changed their mind about the doctors stopped believing in science. I think what often happens is that loyalty to party supercedes the willingness to let science dictate policy. I'm not sure that a society run only on the basis of what scientists have to say is either possible or desirable--unless of course you're the Borg. Science, however, needs to be significantly in the mix and considered as the source of innovation.

The real hope of the future is what it often is--coming generations. Hyperpartisanship appears to be having a hard time remaining virulent in those under the age of 30 or 35. If I remember correctly, my generation was not nearly as politically dogmatic as our parents--although many of us appear to have become what we once opposed.

The next time you feel despondent, however, look at the pictures of those who have now taken it to the streets to oppose injustice--economic, racial, environmental. The mix reflects who we are as a nation--young, old, white, black, brown, asian, gay, straight, bi and most things in between.

Some day our governments will reflect the same diversity and good sense of those who are now peacefully demonstrating--I'm sure of it.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 9, 2020

Appreciate you taking the time to shine a light on the positive and reasons for optimism, Joel-- keep up the good fight!

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