Science denial, hurricanes and vaccines

We are currently experiencing our fair share of political turmoil here in the UK but we haven’t as yet seen science denial quite on the level that they have in the United States. There are a few British politicians who are skeptical of anthropogenic climate change (1) and there’s at least one Member of Parliament who advocates the use of homeopathy and acupuncture as a way of alleviating pressure on the NHS (2). These people however, are mild compared to the very pinnacle of United States Government.

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has claimed climate change is a hoax and has decided his country is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. He has also argued that vaccines are linked to autism despite overwhelming research to show otherwise.

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I present two of Trump’s Tweets on this blog post because they are now backfiring on him in what might be the height of poetic justice. Hurricanes, Jose and Irma have left a trial of devastation across the Caribbean, Texas and Florida and meanwhile Yemen, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and India are inundated with floods. Although these occurrences cannot be attributed specifically to climate change they are nevertheless, very likely to part of a steady increase in extreme weather events undoubtedly as a result of a warming planet.

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Hurricanes and cyclones themselves are only part of the problem because other natural disasters follow in their aftermath. Particularly in underdeveloped regions cholera can spread through compromised water supplies. One of the most effective weapons against cholera is the newly developed ‘killed oral cholera vaccines’ or kOCVs which provide nearly 80% immunity in infected regions. These vaccines however, have to be administered before disaster strikes in order provide the required herd immunity. Vaccines are not therefore part of a disaster relief effort but have to integrated into longterm programmes. 

While Present Trump denies much of the science that made America the wealthy nation that it is, others such as those at the Gates Foundation are actively trying to take real and effective action. I will not make the mistake of judging every American by the standard of their president but the rise of science denialism is very concerning and I believe it to be the duty of every scientist to challenge and fight the trend whenever they can.

1 - most notably the Conservative Lord Nigel Lawson

2- David Tredinnick Conservative Member of Parliament for Bosworth in Leicestershire