Trump Calls Fauci 'a Disaster,' Tries to Blame Science and Medical Experts for Failed Coronavirus Response
President Trump attacked the nation's top infectious disease specialist in a call with campaign staffers that several reporters were allowed to listen to on Monday. In the call, Trump said that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci was "a disaster." He added that despite the evidence that coronavirus cases are once again rising across the country, the public was tired of hearing so much news about the virus, especially from "these idiots" in the government and scientific community, as The Washington Post reported.
Trump seemed irked by an interview that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave to 60 Minutes in which Fauci said he was not surprised that Trump contracted the coronavirus after attending a large event at the White House for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett where attendees were not masked.
In many interviews, Fauci has touted the efficacy of wearing masks and social distancing, while warning that a failure to follow those safety measures could lead to a very difficult fall and winter as coronavirus and influenza intersect. The evidence suggests Fauci is correct, as the U.S. saw more than 70,000 new cases on Friday, its highest total in months, while the virus is gaining strength in Europe once again, as The New York Times reported.
In his broadside Monday, Trump dismissed those concerns about the virus, claiming that the public's interest has waned.
"People are tired of COVID," Trump said on the call, according to The New York Times. "I have the biggest rallies I've ever had. And we have COVID. People are saying: 'Whatever. Just leave us alone.' They're tired of it."
He tried to shift blame for the administration's response by saying, "People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots — these people, these people that have gotten it wrong," Trump said, as NBC News reported. "Fauci's a nice guy. He's been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong. And he's like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage telling us how to respond to the pandemic. Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we'd have 500,000 deaths. If we listened to him, we'd have 700-800,000 deaths right now."
At the same time that Trump was issuing his attacks on the government's medical experts, Fauci was receiving the National Academy of Medicine's first-ever Presidential Citation for Exemplary Leadership in a virtual event, as CNN reported.
"We have a lot of challenges ahead of us and I can't help thinking that we're really going through a time that's disturbingly anti-science in certain segments of our society," Fauci said in his speech as he accepted the award, according to CNN.
Trump was not done with his attacks on Fauci. Later in the day, Trump took to Twitter to mock Fauci for his errant ceremonial first pitch for the Washington Nationals on opening day, as The Washington Post reported.
"Tony should stop wearing the Washington Nationals' Mask for two reasons. Number one, it is not up to the high standards that he should be exposing," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Number two, it keeps reminding me that Tony threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!"
Trump's attack on one of the nation's most revered doctors generated a swift backlash from both sides of the aisle.
The Biden campaign responded by saying, "Mr. President, you're right about one thing: The American people are tired. They're tired of your lies about this virus," as The New York Times reported.
Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, called Fauci one of the country's most distinguished public servants.
"If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we'd have fewer cases of COVID-19, & it would be safer to go back to school & back to work & out to eat," Alexander wrote on Twitter.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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