dr. fauci

Peter Dykstra: Life imitates climate politics—again.

Personal, misinformed attacks on Dr. Fauci are reminiscent of climate spats over the decades.

As surely as the swallows make their annual return to Capistrano, the politics of climate change and science always foreshadow the larger political world.


Today, our headlines are positively rotten with denial-based news: January 6 denial. Election denial. Denying that mass shootings and gun deaths are problems. But some of these aren’t new.

COVID vaccine denial? Let’s travel back in time to meet your grandpappy, smallpox vaccine denial.

It's Montreal, 1885. The world’s last major smallpox outbreak gripped the city, killing nearly 2% of its 300,000 residents. Historian Michael Bliss details the 19th Century frenzy in his 1991 book Plague: A Story of Smallpox in Montreal.

Even back then, French-speaking Quebec was a province apart from Anglophone, Canada. Faith in the smallpox vaccine reigned amongst the English, which automatically made Quebec a denialist province. The French-speaking majority of Montrealers saw the smallpox vaccine as a threat—a way for English-speaking Canada to show who’s boss. More than 90 percent of the smallpox deaths in the 1885 outbreak were French-speaking folks who refused the vaccine.

Friendly fire 

Fast forward to today. Pity Doctor Anthony Fauci. A superb medical communicator exuding an octogenarian folksiness, he has become America’s country doctor from the Bronx. But he was the American government’s country doctor, and therefore tens of millions regard him as a spokesman for the untrustworthy.

The normally unflappable Fauci flapped a bit during a hearing Tuesday when Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan) pulled a time-honored denier trick out of the closet. Marshall trotted out a theatrically-oversized check for $434,212 --Fauci’s annual federal pay. The Senator then suggested that given Fauci’s influence over $5 billion in infectious disease-related grants he’s only in the COVID business for the money and the power.

Fauci bristled, then called Marshall a “moron,” picked up over a mic Fauci didn’t know was still hot.

Add on dictates from states, local school boards, and scolds from thousands of writers and pundits like me asking Americans for small sacrifices to fight back against an enemy that’s killed 800,000 of us (and my Mom!) and America quickly draws battle lines. And Fauci, our general in the COVID war, is taking friendly fire.

Climate attacks 

Fauci could find lessons, and maybe small comfort, from the experiences of climate generals like politician Al Gore or scientist Michael Mann.

Gore has endured more than 30 years of abuse for being fundamentally right about the risks of climate change. For his part, Mann has been under relentless attack for his unusually high profile for a scientist. He’s currently in the middle of a knock-down, drag-out lawsuit against an online commentator who attempted a wildly tenuous link between Mann and a convicted child molester.

So, while the headlines are bigger and more frequent, today's personal attacks on people telling us uncomfortable truths are nothing new.

But maybe it is time we set aside the bickering and start listening.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: Dr. Anthony Fauci (Credit: U.S. Department of the Interior)

Keystone spill in Kansas the largest in pipeline's 11-year history
journalstar.com

Keystone spill in Kansas the largest in pipeline's 11-year history

The estimated 600,000 gallons spilled from Keystone Pipeline into a Kansas creek this week could be among the largest onshore releases of oil or petroleum in the U.S. since 2010.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

A 100MW solar farm in Texas will mount panels directly… | Canary Media
www.canarymedia.com

A 100MW solar farm in Texas will mount panels directly… | Canary Media

Startup Erthos says its "earth-mount" approach can reduce utility-scale solar costs by up to 20% by eliminating steel racking.
Behavioral scientists' appeal to climate researchers: Study The bias
insideclimatenews.org

Behavioral scientists' appeal to climate researchers: Study The bias

For Leticia Nogueira, it started with the frogs. As a grade schooler visiting her grandfather’s farm in her native Brazil, she and her family would stay up listening to the amphibians croak through the night. By the time she was a teenager, those trips to the farm were notable only for their profound silence. “We […]
Op-ed: Climate change versus biodiversity: There can be only one
www.bloomberg.com

Op-ed: Climate change versus biodiversity: There can be only one

Hard self-interest is forcing people to rein in temperatures in order to survive. Similar factors are bringing the extinction of other species.
John Kerry examining likely impact of new UK coalmine
www.theguardian.com

John Kerry examining likely impact of new UK coalmine

US climate envoy says he will publicly criticise UK’s approval of Cumbrian mine if it adds to emissions
Oil companies ‘could doom global efforts’ around climate change, House committee finds
www.nbcnews.com

Oil companies ‘could doom global efforts’ around climate change, House committee finds

A report issued Friday by the House Oversight Committee said oil companies had “greenwashed” their public image while continuing to invest in fossil fuels.
From our Newsroom
fracking pennsylvania

Revealed: Nearly 100 potential PFAS-polluted sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia from fracking waste

A new map reveals at least 97 new locations that could have been contaminated by the industry’s use of “forever chemicals”

young scientists

Op-ed: Why academic journals need to embrace youth

We’re tired of hearing leaders say we need creative solutions to climate issues, and then ignoring the creative solutions youth present.

Europe forest

EU’s new climate change plan will cause biodiversity loss and deforestation: Analysis

In a plan full of sustainable efforts, the incentivizing of biomass burning has climate experts concerned.

United Nations climate change

Op-ed: It’s time to re-think the United Nations’ COP climate negotiations

Instead of focusing on negotiations, let the main event be information sharing, financing and partnerships that produce faster technological change.

population environmental

Op-ed: What the media gets wrong about the new world population numbers

The last time that we lived within the productivity limits of our planet was about 50 years ago — that is a problem.

katharine hayhoe

Peter Dykstra: Journalists I’m thankful for

My third annual list of the over-achieving and under-thanked.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.