Will science be better appreciated in the post-pandemic world?
An important lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that modern societies must do a better job in accepting science and investing further in scientific research. As witnessed, the coronavirus took the world by surprise primarily due to the lack of scientific preparedness.
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Several countries paid a high cost of prioritizing ‘misinformation’ ahead of scientific evidence. In 8 out of the 11 countries with the greatest number of coronavirus deaths, the political leadership publicly downplayed scientists’ recommendations at various stages of the pandemic.
Donald Trump repeatedly humiliated science by referring to COVID19 as the “New Hoax.” It is widely agreed that the United States’ inability to acknowledge scientific recommendations has cost many lives in the US and worldwide. Similarly to Trump, Italian Prime Minister Conte attributed the rise in numbers to “an increase in PCR testing”. Their foreign minister accused the media and called news updates an “infodemic”. Italy has been one of the worst-hit countries from the early pandemic days.
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Likewise, shortsighted leaders in Brazil, United Kingdom, Iran, Spain, and Mexico underestimated the importance of scientific recommendations. Unfortunately, all these countries made it to the top of the chart of coronavirus deaths.
Countries with the greatest number of COVID19 deaths:
United States 473,543
United Kingdom 112,092
Amid the costly mishaps, parts of the world realized the importance of accepting science, finally due to the horrific outcomes. Recently, we have seen an increased efficiency in sharing and releasing scientific data across the globe. Countries improved the processes of new vaccine development, trials, and approvals. The general public became more aware and respectful of scientific recommendations such as personal hygiene practices. Science and technology have advanced to become more reliable, to interconnect businesses and individuals online without needing physical mobility.
Hopefully, such positive drifts of respecting science will spread beyond the pandemic response to help other global crises such as climate change. As per scientists’ reports, we are now beyond the reversible limits and in a climate ‘emergency’. Still, for the second consecutive decade, the world has failed to meet a single target from the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets agreed, according to a recent UN report.
In 2019, over 11,000 world’s leading scientists added their names to a report published by BioScience declaring a global climate ‘emergency’. The report states that a significant part of the earth will become inhabitable unless we immediately reduce emissions and work on the removal of atmospheric carbon.
Although lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic reduced global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, this is unlikely to translate to long-term progress as there are no sincere discussions or significant shifts in the way we operate. If we continue our ignorance and inaction, the planet may face a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health, and climate-disruption”, as warned by an international group of scientists, including Prof. Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University.
The post-pandemic world must now learn its lessons and respect scientific observations and recommendations seriously. In this regard, we have seen some progress from recent Sri Lankan governments. For example, the Central Environment Authority’s current regulations to ban single-use and short-term use plastics will be in effect from March 3, 2021. As per the Central Environment Authority, more than 70 metric tons of single-use plastic waste pollutes the sea daily through waterways.
Now is the time to push for a profound political, social, economic, and educational shift, both locally and globally, to avoid possible future suffering to the already disturbed world.