Op-ed: Coronavirus pandemic—the consequences of sidelining science

by Derrick Z. Jackson, Union of Concerned Scientists


Journalist Derrick Z. Jackson explains how the current administration is ignoring the science behind the COVID-19 outbreak, and jeopardizing many lives in the process.

  • Wealthy corporations such as Target and Walgreens have offered support during this time as locations for potential drive-in style testing facilities
  • The White House denied early test kits from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Prevention
  • Many scientists and disease control experts are missing from key coronavirus meetings in the White House due to the elimination of the pandemic team and sidelining of science-based researchers. Had these people been present, the US would have a better approach to this pandemic
  • Cheerleading the minimal efforts from big corporations will not help us during this crisis. Only science-backed solutions concerning our health and safety will help the American people

The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder that we ignore the science at our own peril and early action saves lives. Scientists are increasingly warning that to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, the world’s governments must implement massive reductions of warming emissions. To avert dire consequences in-state and to inspire greater climate action worldwide, California must accelerate its climate leadership and policy timelines now.

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UNITED IN SCIENCE: High-level synthesis report of latest climate science (Sept 2019)

See this excellent United Nations high level climate science synthesis (Sept 22 2019) of the latest from the advisory group to the UN Climate Action Summit. You can read the press release and summary here.  This is provides the scientific foundation for much more bold action in California– accelerated timelines and more aggressive policies to address the climate crisis.  -Ellie Cohen

Key Points:

  • There is growing recognition that climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than climate assessments indicated even a decade ago
  • Meeting the Paris Agreement of staying below 2C warming requires immediate and deep decarbonisation, protection and enhancement of carbon sinks and biodiversity, and efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere
  • Current country commitments to reduce emissions globally need to be 3x greater to be in line with the 2°C goal and 5x more for the 1.5°C goal. Technically it is still possible to bridge the gap

Foreword by António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General:

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. This important document by the United Nations and global partner organizations, prepared under the auspices of the Science Advisory Group of the Climate Action Summit, features the latest critical data and scientific findings on the climate crisis. It shows how our climate is already changing, and highlights the far-reaching and dangerous impacts that will unfold for generations to come. Science informs governments in their decision-making and commitments. I urge leaders to heed these facts, unite behind the science and take ambitious, urgent action to halt global heating and set a path towards a safer, more sustainable future for all.

Key Messages:


The Global Climate in 2015 – 2019
• Average global temperature for 2015-2019 is on track to be the warmest of any equivalent period on record. It is currently estimated to be 1.1°C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) times and 0.2°C warmer than 2011-2015
• Observations show that global mean sea level rise is accelerating and an overall increase of 26% in ocean acidity since the beginning of the industrial era

Global Fossil CO2 Emissions
• CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use continue to grow by over 1% annually and 2% in 2018 reaching a new high
• Growth of coal emissions resumed in 2017
• Despite extraordinary growth in renewable energy, fossil fuels still dominate the global energy system

Greenhouse Gas Concentrations
• Increases in CO2 concentrations continue to accelerate
• Current levels of CO2, CH4 and N2O represent 146%, 257% and 122% respectively of preindustrial levels (pre-1750)

Emissions Gap
• Global emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030, let alone by 2020
• Implementing current unconditional NDCs would lead to a global mean temperature rise between 2.9°C and 3.4°C by 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels, and continuing thereafter
• The current level of NDC ambition needs to be roughly tripled for emission reduction to be in line with the 2°C goal and increased fivefold for the 1.5°C goal. Technically it is still possible to bridge the gap

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 & 2019 Special Reports
• Limiting temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would go hand-in-hand with reaching other world goals such as achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty
• Climate change puts additional pressure on land and its ability to support and supply food, water, health and wellbeing. At the same time, agriculture, food production, and deforestation are major drivers of climate change

Climate Insights
• Growing climate impacts increase the risk of crossing critical tipping points
• There is a growing recognition that climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than climate assessments indicated even a decade ago
• Meeting the Paris Agreement requires immediate and all-inclusive action encompassing deep decarbonisation complemented by ambitious policy measures, protection and enhancement of carbon sinks and biodiversity, and effort to remove CO2 from the atmosphere

Global Framework for Climate Services
• Climate and early warning information services should underpin decision-making on climate action for adaptation
• The capacities of countries to deliver climate and early warning information services varies across regions


This report has been compiled by the World Meteorological Organization under the auspices of the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Action Summit 2019, to bring together the latest climate science related updates from a group of key global partner organizations – The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), UN Environment (UNEP), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Global Carbon Project, Future Earth, Earth League and the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). The content of each chapter of this report is attributable to published information from the respective organizations. Overall content compilation of this material has been carried out by the World Meteorological Organization. This report is available electronically, together with more extended background reports and additional supporting material at:

The youth climate response – when impatience is a virtue

It is hard not to notice the upwelling of young people leading the way in the current climate movement. As a youth leadership program, this is an exciting time to listen and be inspired! By now most have heard Swedish 16-year old Greta Thunberg, “I don’t want your hope,…I want you to act.” Greta has inspired Fridays for Our Future, and School Strike 4 Climate which has sparked school walkouts around Europe, Australia, Great Britain and here in the U.S. Tens of thousands of students have already participated in these events.

There are also the twenty-one young plaintiffs in Juliana v. the United States suing the federal government for its inaction on climate change.  Another influential group is the youth activists at the Sunrise Movement, demanding a Green New Deal. Their recent visit with Diane Feinstein went viral as the Senator is seen defensively chiding young activists asking her to support the resolution, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing.”

Is that why the hottest years on record have all occurred in the last decade – because we know what we are doing? To those who wonder how we can afford policy around the Green New Deal, it is important to note we already spend an average of $240 billion a year in economic losses from weather events influenced by climate change and health damages due to air pollution caused by fossil fuel energy production. The cost of doing nothing is accruing an unconscionably hefty price tag.

The clarity with which young people are understanding this crisis and taking action is a powerful tonic to the paralysis and timid steps of the past.  How would you feel if you were born into a world where a crisis has been evident, for so long, with the solutions right there ready to be deployed, and yet, the world stumbles to set meaningful targets. Scientists wrote in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report detailing the urgency of taking bold action within this decade, and yet we live in a country where our President tragically confuses weather for climate.

These young activists understand the basic arithmetic: when we use fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and natural gas for energy, we release excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it builds up acting like a heat-trapping blanket. The more fossil fuels we burn for energy, the more that blanket thickens, and the more our planet warms. This warming disrupts ecosystems on land and at sea which is evident with our fierce storms, relentless fire seasons, and epic heat waves.

As the Sunrise Movement group camped outside Mitch McConnell’s office in Kentucky, demanding to talk to their representative,  a 17-year-old Louisville high school student pleads, “We demand he look us in the eyes and tell us that the $1.9 million that he gets from fossil fuel industries is more important than my generation’s future.” The time has come to for us to ask: which do we care about more, fossil fuel interests or a stable climate?

These are the history-making days. Will we be  the ones who rolled our eyes at these young people demanding a sensible response? Or the ones that said yes, we will transition and we are here to support you any way we can.

We know what to do. The solutions are ready to go, and they will make our lives better.

As Greta plainly states, “The main solution, however, is so simple even a child can understand. We have to stop the emissions of greenhouse gasses.” Yes, Greta, Yes, we do.

Here at ECO2school, we are blessed to work with our inspiring Youth Advisory Board (YAB)!  These local leaders meet monthly to share a meal, deepen their skills, plan events- like this last November’s Green Teen, and feel the power of their shared values in this climate of youth action. In April the group will be partnering with and the Santa Rosa Junior College to host a Climate Action Night. Locally and globally the youth are leading the way!