If we were told at the end of 2019 that our lives would be coming to a standstill in 2020, we wouldn’t believe it.
In our fast-paced world, the idea of people locked down in our homes for weeks on end seemed ludacris.
But we all faced this reality at the beginning of this year.
Cars stopped moving. Airplanes stopped flying. The world came to a standstill.
Even though the world was being ravaged by a pandemic, it was a very insightful time for climate change.
Our planet started showing signs of healing.
There has never before been a more visibly clear indication of the human influence on the environment.
COVID-19 has provided an excellent experiment of what results we can expect from diminished human activity.
Here’s what the Coronavirus has taught us about our battle with climate change.
1. Dramatic Progress is Possible
The startling images of a pollution free Los Angeles skyline and the clear waterways of Venice showed us what can happen in a relatively short time.
We saw emissions around the world fall.
In China between early February and mid-March, carbon emissions were down by 18%.
A monumental drop for such a small time frame.
Not only did we see dramatic changes around the world, we were all also experiencing them in our local environments and homes.
We drove less. We quickly adjusted to working from home (where possible).
We started cooking at home more.
Travelling was replaced with exploring our local nature areas.
Our patterns shifted quickly and the results came even quicker.
If we had an economy that taxed pollution rather than prosperity, we could reduce taxes consistently, year after year.
We could cut taxes and carbon emissions 2-5% each year.
2. Collective Action on a Large Scale is Achievable
We’ve been shown that society can change.
From the way we work to how we live, we all made changes in order to help combat the spread of Coronavirus.
In many countries, populations managed to flatten the curve by working together.
It’s a trend we’ve seen time and time before: when the stakes are high, we can pull together as a community to face the hardest challenges.
No-one is immune from Coronavirus’ reach.
Everyone has a role to play in keeping cases low – from our dedicated healthcare workers to the people who stay home social distancing.
We’re far from beating COVID-19 but when we do, it will largely be contributed to our collective efforts.
In short, we have most of the technologies we need to protect our air and climate.
We have the innovative capacity to do even more.
What we need is the political will to take sensible action.
Above all, we need Republicans to come to the table, and forge a coalition with Democrats to meet the challenge in a way that protects and enhances freedom and prosperity.
3. It’s Important to Keep Biodiversity Healthy
As animals lose their habitat, the chance of animal-human contact increases greatly.
The CDC has stated that ¾ of new infectious diseases are the result of animal-human contact.
Not only do environment harming activities like deforestation contribute to climate change, they also increase our exposure to animal-borne diseases.
The Ebola outbreak was directly linked to agricultural-driven forest loss.
If we continue on the path of destroying habitats, we’ll be creating conditions for new viruses like Coronavirus to thrive.
4. We Need to Listen to Science
Without our strong science communities, there’s no way that we’ll overcome our current pandemic.
Scientists were able to create a diagnostic test within 3 weeks of the WHO’s announcement of Coronavirus in China.
But even before all of this happened, experts had warned of a pandemic decades ago.
Their predictions were ignored.
America’s Global Health Security and Biodefense unit – responsible for preparing for pandemics – was disbanded in May 2018.
The science has been clear on climate change for a long time.
Yet, significant action hasn’t been taken.
We need to learn from the COVID response and mitigate any risk from climate change before it happens, not after.
For inspiration on how to do so, we look to the ideas and insights of optimistic environmentalists from the years before cynics turned the planet into a partisan cause, smart scientists who see the risks but also sense the possibilities of our present predicament.
5. Quicker Action Causes Less Suffering
We were all made very quickly aware of the term – “flatten the curve”.
It was the buzzword that became a comparison between countries.
Those who took swift action were rewarded with lower death rates.
The quicker we mobilize in crises, the less the suffering will be.
Climate change is predicted to bring us many challenges – more natural disasters, depleted food supplies and rising sea levels.
The quicker we act on climate change, the less suffering our communities will experience.
6. We’re All Vulnerable to Crisis
There are a handful of countries, mainly remote islands, who haven’t reported any cases of Coronavirus.
Even if they’ve reported no cases, they would still be affected by lack of travel and interrupted supplies.
We’ve all been affected in some way by this crisis.
Our communities that have social and/or economic vulnerabilities have suffered the most.
And from the history books, societies with vast social and economic inequalities can fall apart.
Climate change will affect everyone.
But mostly, our vulnerable communities.
7. Changes Can Be Made Quickly
The risk that the Coronavirus pandemic brought to our communities was bad enough to motivate us into drastic changes quickly.
Business as usual was highly disrupted in the name of stopping the spread.
People started making lifestyle changes to help protect the more vulnerable people in their communities.
We were all motivated to do whatever we could to slow down the pandemic.
If the same motivation was put into making drastic changes for climate change, we could transform areas like energy consumption.
We all, individually and collectively, have a role to play in preventing the effects of climate change.
8. We Can Fix The Problem
This pandemic has created so many situations we couldn’t have imagined.
One being the implementation of socially unpopular policies by our governments that are in the interest of public good but detrimental to the economy.
We’ve learned that we can respond to a crisis when we need to.
Climate change is also threatening our lives and we need to respond with the same urgency.
We can’t wait until a major crisis happens to make changes.
What we’ve really learned during this pandemic is just how interconnected we all are.
A virus that started in Wuhan has now reached all corners of the globe in a very short space of time.
As a community united by our complementarity, we hold the solutions to a host of unresolved problems.
The real story of COVID-19 and the environment is one of the greatest global tragedies unreported.
The pandemic has distracted from the environmental issues.
The public is being fed news about the coronavirus almost exclusively, effectively blinding them from anything else going on.
But now the pandemic has forced us to face the reality of our interconnected world, we can’t ignore it.
Climate change is happening.
And it will be down to every single one of us working together to make real change.
We have a lot more power than we realised.
Let’s use it.