November 20, 2020
2020 was a year of embracing unexpected changes, and the United States’ presidential election is no exception. The election day turned into an election week, which was horrendously long and anxiety-inducing as everyone closely watched the race between current President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. For a bitterly divided country, Biden winning the race is promising for its future, so when major media outlets and the Electoral College declared Biden’s victory, a huge weight was lifted off lots of people’s shoulders, including those in the science community.
The US is facing what Biden called “the four crises”: the pandemic, the economy, racial injustice and climate change. Two of the four crises depend on science that the Trump administration refused to focus on. The administration was damaging to science and public health, evident by their ineffective COVID-19 pandemic response and withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Many reputable science journals have called out Trump for undermining science and endorsed Biden, including Nature, Science, and Scientific American. Can Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris undo the damage caused by Trump? Let’s take a look at their vision for the pandemic and climate change.
Biden will inherit a nation with over 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, lack of contact tracing and Trump supporters who are skeptical of science. Throughout Biden’s presidential campaign, the pandemic response was the pièce de résistance. Biden promised to “put scientists and public health leaders front and center” in two health agencies: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. His very first action will be implementing a mask mandate in combination with limiting gatherings, physical distancing, testing and contact tracing to slow down the spread of the virus. In a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden stated that he would “bulk-purchase as many doses as necessary of the COVID-19 vaccine” to provide protection for all Americans for free, with or without insurance. It’s time for America to use the pandemic playbook that former President Barack Obama left behind.
In December of 2015, 195 countries signed the Paris climate agreement, a landmark plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the rising sea level by limiting the use of fossil fuels. Nearly 5 years later, Donald Trump officially withdrew from the accord, openly supported the fossil fuel industry and regardless of joking or not, falsely claimed that climate change does not exist. On the other hand, Joe Biden wants to increase funding for renewable energy sources, research facilities and the development of environmentally-friendly technologies. He proudly named his plan a “Clean Energy Revolution” which simultaneously achieves clean energy and supports the economy by providing new jobs. The US needs to restore its citizens’ faith in science, and it is now Biden’s responsibility to repair the damage by putting regulations in place and rejoin international environmental commitments.
Science has long been ignored and politicized, so Biden’s win is one to be celebrated for science-enthusiasts like myself. In his victory speech, he stated that his presidential plan would be “built on the bedrock of science”, “constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern.” Joe Biden getting elected is a huge relief for the science community, but the work here is not done. We need to continue to advocate for science and hold Biden accountable, making sure that he will commit to his plans.