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Listen to the Science

The announcement of this year's Nobel Prize laureates is an ideal occasion to appreciate how much we owe to basic science, and how scientists have come together like never before to help stop COVID-19. To overcome the pandemic and meet the other global challenges we face, we must follow their example – and their lead.

STOCKHOLM – The announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize laureates should remind us of the many contributions basic science has made to contemporary life. With COVID-19 ravaging much of humanity, and the world anxiously awaiting a breakthrough that can end the pandemic, we can no longer take science for granted. And the global science community, for its part, has risen to the occasion in unprecedented ways, not only to develop vaccines, therapies, and diagnostics, but also to improve our understanding of the virus and the best strategies to protect ourselves.

But the world is also afflicted by other crises that must not be ignored. Last month was the warmest September ever recorded. Tens of millions of people around the world are already experiencing the disastrous effects of human-induced climate change, from raging wildfires and rising sea levels to dangerous heat waves, droughts, and floods. Given current and projected greenhouse-gas emissions, more extreme symptoms of this kind are inevitable, and the increase in the frequency and intensity of many could be irreversible.

There are also deepening social and economic crises. The pandemic has battered national economies, exacerbated many forms of inequality, and sown distrust and social unrest around the world. We rely ever more on technology to conduct our daily lives, educate our children, and connect with each other, but we have yet to do enough to prevent the same technology from being used to amplify dangerous misinformation, inflame social unrest, and leave vulnerable communities even further behind.

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