Coronavirus and Climate Change

covid-19 structure

Coronavirus and climate change aren’t exactly competing for national attention, as COVID-19 remains front and center in our news cycles. But I believe now is the time to discuss climate change, in context of our new world. It is Earth Week, and Wednesday marked 50 years since the first Earth Day was celebrated.  I likely can’t tell you anything new on the deadly virus, but here is the information that is pertinent to this analysis.  It’s here, it’s deadly, the world has taken unprecedented action to stop its spread, including self-isolation and economic shutdown, and we seem to be at least quelling the rise of it. 

These drastic measures we have taken as a global community are necessary, inconvenient, and working.  

It is my belief that this time period offers a glimpse into the resiliency of the human race and can help us visualize a path forward towards a more sustainable world.

the correlation between the coronavirus and climate change

Based on science, observation, data, modeling and facts, we know that the coronavirus exists, is impacting the globe, and the only way to combat it is through drastic, inconvenient measures.  Let me say that again: Based on science, observation, data, modeling and facts, we know that climate change exists, is impacting the globe, and the only way to combat it is through drastic, inconvenient measures. 

Ooops.  See what I did there?  

Assuming you did, or you went back to take another peek, let’s talk more about the correlations between coronavirus and climate change.

glaciers threatened by climate change

both are existential threats

Existential refers to existence.  An existential threat is something that threatens existence.  I have heard some say that COVID-19 is an existential threat, while climate change is not.  I do agree that COVID-19 is an existential threat, as it certainly threatens individual life, as well as life as we know it.  And I’m not downplaying COVID, but I actually think climate change fits the definition more aptly. Climate change impacts the only source of life-sustaining resources we have, while the virus attacks individuals within a species.  But with COVID-19, we’ve made major changes to our social structures, traditions, and support systems to accommodate our health, wellbeing and save lives.  Meaning we’ve managed to adapt to fight a threat to our lives.  And this brings me to my next point.

| To ignore the signs, science, data and models, and select the ‘do nothing’ scenario would endanger millions of lives.  |

both require urgent action

We have 2 choices when faced with decisions.  Act or Do Nothing.  We took (relatively) swift action against this virus.  We had no other choice.  We were staring the repercussions of inaction in the face, with war cries from scientists puncturing our ears.  We had no other choice, based on the characteristics of this virus: it is relentless and resilient, highly transmissible, and deadly.  We’ve never seen this virus before.  It’s uncharted territory.

To ignore the signs, science, data, and models, and select the do nothing scenario would endanger millions of lives.

Can’t we say the same for climate change?

both are global threats

This threat is not isolated.  It knows no boundaries.  The entire world is facing the same enemy.  And the only way to combat it is to take collective action, with the health, well-being, and survival of our global society taking precedence over everything else.  And that’s exactly what we’ve done for the coronavirus. And it is exactly what we will need to do for climate change.

minorities are the most vulnerable

Sadly, minorities and underserved communities suffer the most at the hands of the virus.  Those with limited access to education earn lower wages, and work in jobs that do not provide health insurance.  They may live in more polluted areas.  They often end up with underlying illness, making them more vulnerable to the wrath of the coronavirus.  Climate change is similar.  With less resources to adapt to the symptoms of a changing climate, underserved, impoverished or minority communities face greater challenges.

neither are demographically contained

This is not to say that the virus or impacts of climate change are discriminatory.  Neither care about your political affiliation, how much you make, where you live, the color of your skin, or your religious beliefs.  No demographical assignment can remove you from the list of potential victims.  Both COVID-19 and climate change are equitable and devasting.  This may seem contradictory to the claim that minorities are the most vulnerable, but here is the distinction: 

Minorities and underserved communities have fewer resources to turn the dial of devastation down to low.  Although all humans are susceptible, the devastation level is higher for disadvantaged communities.

Are you ready for some good stuff yet?

Yeah, me too.

so what does coronavirus show us about sustainability?

I’ve shown you the similarities between climate change and coronavirus. Let’s examine what that might mean for how we move forward in our fight against climate change.

despite what we are told, we actually are willing to be inconvenienced to fight global threats

People have stayed indoors for 6 weeks.  We forgo haircuts, dining out, church services, shopping, movies, bowling, golf, we gave up seeing friends and family, jobs, child care, and our routine lives to save the lives of strangers across the globe.  That means something.

the world moves closer together, not apart, when faced with global threats

The world has come together during this time.  Small communities, states, countries, are working together to help each other; singing songs from apartment balconies, beeping parades for health care workers, countries offering masks and PPE to others that need it.  We’re doing it, people.  We’re a global community, and we are acting like one.

science is… well, pretty reliable.

Using scientific predictions, observations and data, we’ve developed a plan of action and have changed the course of this virus.  It’s proven to be the right thing to have done.  Can we go ahead and agree that maybe our scientists DO know a little something about how our world works? Can we let them guide the discussion on how to proceed for a sustainable future, and not depend on the wealthy, politicians and economists that view the world through a capitalistic lens?

impossible drastic measures have proven to be the thing that can save us 

We used to think it’d be impossible to take millions of cars off the road. We need people to drive that daily commute to show up for work and get their jobs done.  People won’t be productive from home.  They need an office.  But teachers haven’t stopped teaching, have they?  Preachers are still preaching.  All around the world, businesses are finding ways to adapt through digital tech.

We used to think it’d be impossible to face job loss if we divert from fossil fuels.  But we are predicted to lose over 5 million jobs because of Coronavirus, due to necessary action.   And the government is finding ways to support those economically impacted.

We used to think it’d be impossible to change the structures of our stubborn societies.  And nearly overnight, we’ve done just that.  We’ve put regulations in place for how close people can stand next to each other in line at the grocery store, how restaurants can serve their diners, how to get care for a sick pet.  Overnight, our processes have been undone and rebuilt to accommodate a new reality.  And in the midst of this virus, another reality looms- a world facing climate change.

Necessity is the mother of invention.  And when faced with a life-threatening virus, we took unprecedented, unimaginable, drastic action to save human lives.  So you tell me: 

What looks impossible now?

Now is the time

COVID-19 reset our lives.  It’s rewritten what is possible when the stakes are high.  It’s shown us that society wants to place health, well-being and life before money, convenience, and familiarity.  With such disruption required in such a short amount of time, our adaptive agility is remarkable. 

We’re resilient.  We’re smart.  We’re capable.  This may sound like your morning mantra, and in a way, I guess it is a mantra.  We can do this, guys!  COVID-19 has shown us what we, the members of the human race, are capable of when facing adversity.  What we are willing to do for survival. 

And make no mistake.  Climate change is a fight for survival.

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