First the pandemic, next the climate: The Republican threat to science

Former Republican congresswoman draws lessons from COVID-19 for the other global crisis

July 31, 2020 11:26 am

(Getty Images)

More than ever, our lives depend on medical science to provide reliable testing, diagnosing and mitigation of a deadly virus.

Scientists in the United States and around the world are studying the coronavirus, working day and night to uncover the secrets of this disease and develop a safe, accessible vaccine.

This breakneck research is taking place because Republican senators in recent years shortchanged public health funding, so now we’re playing catch-up. Here’s looking at you, Sens. Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis, Joni Ernst and Martha McSally, all of whom are on record in support of slashing public health budgets.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst addresses supporters with Gov. Terry Brandstad, left, and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds in 2014 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

We have experienced lockdowns for months because Republican “leaders” shut down America’s international pandemic preparedness office in 2018.

This Republican Senate prioritized tax cuts for the rich rather than pandemic preparedness.

Doctors, nurses and other frontline medical workers incur great personal debt financing their studies … for the privilege of putting their lives at risk. But Republicans in Congress have been more concerned about denying the pandemic, politicizing aid and lining their own pockets.

As a Republican former member of the House, it pains me to witness how far our party has degenerated. The GOP’s denial of science, in this moment, has had at least a dual impact — needless loss of life and economic disruption.

To ensure long-term economic prosperity, we must thrive in a healthy, safe environment.

And that’s where scientists come in. Scientists rely on cold, hard facts.

Yet today’s party denies science at everyone’s peril.

But the pandemic is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to ignoring science.

Republicans are also ignoring climate science, and that puts our entire planet at risk, again. A climate economist recently said: “A good way to think about the coronavirus pandemic is that it is like climate change at warp speed. What takes decades and centuries for the climate takes days or weeks for a contagious disease.”

We are already seeing the danger signs of climate change: unprecedented wildfires in the United States and around the world, record heat waves, rising sea levels, increased frequency of extreme weather events, some of which also increase the risk of numerous and unknown insect-borne diseases.

Republicans have done nothing to address this climate threat that scientists have long predicted.

Actually, worse than nothing: Republican senators stand quietly by while the administration recklessly withdraws from international climate agreements, hides critical peer-reviewed scientific reports, and dismantles current safeguards.

As the election approaches — beware of the posturing beside wind turbines, or doublespeak about “innovation” and “all of the above.”

Suddenly you see Republican incumbents scrambling, because they too look at the polls and realize the majority of Americans know climate change is another economic and health crisis ready to happen.

And Republicans have done nothing, again, to prepare us.

As a founding member of Republicans for integrity, I rely on science and data to provide new pathways for anticipating and preventing problems.

Too bad the current Republican Senate didn’t start that long ago, because crisis management is always more expensive than prevention.

As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Let’s apply the lessons of this pandemic to prepare for a slower but equally serious challenge: preventing climate change from ruining our nation, and our world.

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Claudine Schneider
Claudine Schneider

Claudine Schneider, a Boulder resident, is a Republican former United States congresswoman and was the first woman ever elected to a major political office in Rhode Island. She authored the first and only revenue-neutral Global Warming Prevention Act. Today she is an advisor to A Call for American Renewal.