Two major science themes were emphasized in tonight’s State of the Union: a call to action on climate change and the announcement of a new Precision Medicine Initiative (relevant excerpts from the speech shown below).
In my favorite part of the whole speech Obama chastised those who have used the ‘I’m not a scientist’ line to preface a denial of climate change: Well, I’m not a scientist either. But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA and at NOAA and at our major universities, and the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate…” Obama highlighted his administration’s action on climate change including the recent agreement with China to decrease emissions, but didn’t offer specifics on any additional climate change policies.
Obama also announced a new Precision Medicine Initiative to try to harness the advances in genetic sequencing to specifically target treatments to subgroups of patients. One of the guests at the State of the Union was a cystic fibrosis patient that benefited from the drug Kalydeco, which treats the ~5% of cystic fibrosis patients with specific mutations in the CFTR protein. It remains to be seen how this initiative will be structured and whether it comes with increased funding for medical research.
“And no challenge, no challenge, poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.
2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.
Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists, that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist either. But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA and at NOAA and at our major universities, and the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action.
In Beijing, we made a historic announcement: the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.”
Precision Medicine Initiative
“21st century businesses will rely on American science and technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine: one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.
In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.”
Full transcript of the State of the Union speech can be found here.