The current pandemic was underestimated, is hugely uncertain and you would be hard stretched to find someone who has not or will not be affected by it. Now swap the current pandemic for climate change, this could be the future. The window is narrowing for climate change action; it is a looming global virus for our planet. We need to prepare and not underestimate. Rather than reacting to the issue, we must pre-empt and reduce our influence over climate before it is too late.
Similarities between Climate Change and Covid-19
For both climate change and Covid-19, there has been lack of initial immediate action, a willingness to underestimate what is in store, believing the skeptics as and when suits and sitting in complacence about the risk. As humans, we do not do well in the face of uncertainty and COVID-19 has been a ‘stress-test’.
‘We cannot wait for 100% certainty that climate change is happening and what it will look like – that will be too late.’ – Alice Hill
The pandemic started for many as a remote phenomenon, of little immediate risk and a definite ‘out-of-sight-out-of-mind’ situation. In the everyday we do not necessarily walk around experiencing the impacts of climate change directly (those these heatwaves may feel otherwise!). It is hard to feel strongly to act when something feels so far off and uncertain.
People and nature are much more interconnected than we understand. Humans are encroaching further and further into nature. COVID-19 was an indirect effect of humans impact on the natural world. Climate change is a more obvious direct effect, yet the two are again linked here, they both have destabilized ecosystems. As a race, focusing on living more sustainably on this planet needs to be at the forefront of recovery from this pandemic.
Inequality has been highlighted during COVID-19; both within countries and between. India has been experiencing severe typhoons (extreme weather as a side effect of climate change) whilst battling the pandemic. Extreme weather as a result of emissions they are not the ones to answer for. Meanwhile Africa is experiencing issues with an increase in locusts due to the unusually wet weather and cyclones, severely threatening their food supply.
As a planet, we are connected. These two crisis’s have definitely highlighted that.
Takeaways from Covid-19
Yet, on a positive note, one of the main takeaways from COVID-19 for climate change is the significance of individual action. Social distancing, masks, reducing travel etc. these all added up to managing the spread of the pandemic. Although led by a top down approach, the influence of us all doing our bit was crucial.
How governments respond to rebuilding society after this pandemic will hugely impact emissions. During the ‘simpler life of lockdown’ pollution dropped dramatically and nature recovered. Goats walked through streets in wales, dolphins were seen in the then clear canals in Venice and wild boar have become bolder in Spain. Pollution dropped with fewer cars on the road and coal pats were one of the first things to shut as emissions fell. A positive takeaway here, it took only a few weeks for reduced emissions to be felt throughout some of the most polluted cities!
In April 2020 daily global emissions were ~17% lower than April 2019, just under half this was from change in transport (Le Quéré et al, 2020) – definitely made me think twice about my mean of travel. If the world returns to normal with little change by the end of the year, this could result in only 7% decrease on estimated 2020 emissions (Le Quéré et al, 2020).
Possible Individual Actions
- Consider cycling or walking over driving, change in transport habits had HUGE impacts.
- Take steps away from the consumer focused life we live in, bit by bit (lock-down definitely shifted some of my perspective of this!)
- Get out in nature, take a walk. Good for the mind whilst reconnecting with nature keeps that slight reminder of the Earth’s bigger picture.
- Devote time to educating. Climate change can seem just so enormous and negative it is often avoided (like COVID-19, something I am definitely guilty of), yet we need to all be prepared for this one!
- In our own ways, promote green recovery after this pandemic.
I am moving forward from this with an aspect of ‘Don’t forget that lockdown life’. Slower and simpler, the planet began to recover and my mindset changed.
There are small things we each can take from that time! It is so easy to get lost by the sheer size of both phenomenon. Scaling it back, focusing on the everyday, small steps add up!