The last two weeks have been quite eventful for US President Donald Trump. For one, he was nominated for two Nobel Peace Prizes (Peak 2020, right?). On the other hand, this week Trump has found himself on the receiving end of criticism and disdain following a series of unscientific and false claims - on wildfires, on elections, on coronavirus and on climate change.
Again and again, Trump has proved that he has no idea how science works. Remember when he recommended drinking disinfectant to keep the novel coronavirus at bay?
Now here's the thing - when the president of the United States makes such false claims on a public platform, with over a billion people listening to him, the repercussions can be serious. For instance, in the initial phases of the pandemic, Trump had seriously downplayed the importance of masks. Following his footsteps, millions of Trump supporters stormed the streets in anti-mask rallies - with no social distancing or coronavirus measures in place.
Let us remind you that out of 29 million cases worldwide, over 6 million have been reported in the US.
But this week, the POTUS seems to have outdone himself.
On Tuesday, Trump said during the ABC town hall held recently that coronavirus could be defeated through a "herd mentality." He meant herd immunity.
For those unaware, this is what herd immunity means. When the pandemic first struck, no one in the world was immune to it, which is what further escalated the rate of transmission of the virus. But herd immunity, or a collective immunity or herd protection, can be achieved when a majority of the population has been exposed to the disease. This can also help protect those who haven't been infected.
According to the John Hopkins website, when 80% of the population has been infected, four out of five people will not get infected even if they are exposed to the virus. This also means they won't be transmitting it which can in turn help keep the rate of contagion under control.
Herd immunity, however, has nothing to do with herd mentality.
Coronavirus will go away without a vaccine
At the same event, Trump also said that the coronavirus will just "go away" without a vaccine. He also said that it will go away a lot faster because the US is just three or four weeks away from developing a vaccine.
"We're very close to having a vaccine. We're within weeks of getting it you know — could be three weeks, four weeks," he said.
Experts including top US government infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci say vaccine approval is more likely toward the end of the year. In fact, Dr. Fauci also reportedly said that a return to normalcy, that of a pre-pandemic era, could not be expected before the end of 2021 or even 2022.
Trump's statements, on how an infectious disease can just disappear, is unscientific and untrue. It is also in direct contradiction with what the World Health Organisation had said - that the coronavirus might not ever go away, with or without a vaccine. In fact, WHO emergencies director Dr Mike Ryan had warned against trying to predict when the pandemic will end.
"It will get cooler"
Trump also seems to think that climate change can just reverse itself. Human activity, over generations, have resulted in irreparable damage to the environment and global warming. But the POTUS apparently believes that "it will get cooler."
He suggested global warming will reverse itself and dismissed climate change as a cause of ferocious fires engulfing swaths of the US West during a briefing with local officials in California.
Trump, who flew into Sacramento in central California on the third day of a reelection campaign swing, pushed back against state leaders who said that climate change underlies the ever-stronger blazes.
"It will start getting cooler. You just watch," he insisted. When an official countered him and said, "I wish science agreed with you," Trump retorted, ""I don't think science knows, actually."
Yet, reputable scientists around the world are almost unanimous in their belief that the world is getting warmer because of human activity. But science, as Trump has shown over and over again, is not his strong suit.
"Trees just explode"
In a new, false and unscientific claim, he said that 'trees just explode,' on why the US wildfires which are raging on unabated, actually started.
Trump repeated his argument that wildfires are caused by poor maintenance of forest areas, making them more combustible.
"There has to be strong forest management," he said.
"With regard to the forests, when trees fall down after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry. They become really like a match stick," he added. "They just explode."
No, trees do not just explode. According to scientists, climate change plays a huge role in triggering forest fires. Even California Governor Gavin Newsom had stated that the real battle is with climate change and the forest fires just point at a harsher reality - of global warming.
Infernos across California, Oregon and Washington state have burned more than five million acres (two million hectares) this year, killed dozens of people and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Whole towns have been ruined by the blazes, which have pumped out tonnes of noxious fumes that have hung in the air for days, blocking out the sun and making breathing difficult.
This man-made climate change amplifies droughts, which dry out regions, creating ideal conditions for wildfires to spread out-of-control and inflict unprecedented damage.
When the President speaks, people tend to listen. And when they listen, they tend to get influenced. Therefore, when Trump goes up on stage and asserts that climate change isn't real or worrying or that it can be reversed, it could undo years of work by climate change activists to get the world to come around to what is happening around us. When Trump downplays the importance of masks, or says that the virus could go away without a mask, it fuels pandemic deniers who have vehemently been protesting against Covid-19 safety measures.