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Climate change and coronavirus: Lessons learned?

Coronavirus and Climate Change
Coronavirus and Climate Change

I followed a Facebook thread the other day asking people to post the upside to the horrific times we are living in right now.

“More time with family” was popular along with “catching up on Netflix” and finally reading that book on your bedside table. For those of us going to and from work, certainly, the traffic headaches have lessened. And with that, fewer polluting emissions.

Traffic is gone these days
Traffic is gone these days

Obviously, the forced reduction in auto emissions is a great boon to the climate, but with an awful price and not the way we want to induce change.

According to risk-assessment group 427, China’s emissions reduced 25% in mid-February. The Washington Post uses satellite data to show the lessening of nitrogen oxides in northern Italy from January 1st to mid-March. Here’s the before, after and then a side-by-side:

Emissions January 1st
Emissions January 1st
Emissions March 12th
Emissions March 12th
Courtesy The Washington Post
Courtesy The Washington Post

Half the cars in Italy are diesel, by the way. So in terms of this global shutdown helping the climate, being off the roads and at home certainly helps. Working from home may illustrate that we travel by airplane and car too much and more people choosing to continue working from home, as we go forward, would lessen pollution. You can see the Washington Post Article here.

That may be the upside, but 427 points out that climate budgets will be decimated in countries around the world, along with the many projects and research studies no longer on the calendar. They also point out that social distancing will be impossible if, for instance, wildfires drive people from their homes to shelters. That brought to my mind just where we would send people escaping a hurricane. Remember the thousands of people in the Superdome, then the Astrodome and the GRB over the years? Their report is worth the read and right here.

What struck me the most is that 427 was founded after Hurricane Sandy to help governments and institutions prepare for inevitable crises. Their offices are (almost ironically) in San Francisco, Washington, Paris and Tokyo. Which countries are best prepared for a pandemic will bear itself out over the coming months and debate will continue as to what could be done better. But the inevitable preparation question when all this is over comes back to our climate: Are we going to ignore the threat, hoping that a Climate Crises just somehow takes care of itself or others in the future will just figure it out? Hopefully, we have learned from what is happening now that the unthinkable does occur and we have a duty to our world and our future generations to tackle the problem before it is too late.

Frank

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