Climate change, geopolitics, and their relation to the current coronavirus pandemic
By: Shreeya Indap
What is the silver lining of the corona virus pandemic?
While the world has plummeted into a state of devastation in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, one positive arises. Worldwide emissions have decreased, smog has cleared from the airs in the largest cities, and animals are returning to the streets that they once occupied. In fact, in the month of February, China alone had an emissions drop of around 25% (~200 million tons), “more than half the annual emissions of Britain.” As we watch from inside our homes, nature adapts alongside us, slowly returning to its previous glory.
What does this mean for humanity?
This current pandemic is a look into our future, and day by day shapes how we will likely combat another life-threatening health issue: climate change. Similar to the race for a coronavirus vaccine, fighting climate change will directly save millions of lives by reducing diseases, cleaning out our air and water, and slowing our rising sea levels or catastrophic weather conditions, which evidence shows it has already done through corona. In fact, according to Marshall Burke, an assistant professor at Stanford, the few months of decreased pollution in China, has possibly saved 4,000 children under the age of 5 and 73,000 adults over the age of 70. But when the world bounces back from its few months of staying indoors, will people remember the “love for nature” they gained during their daily government sanctioned walks? Pollution will return to its previous levels as fast as it decreased, and sooner or later, we’ll be forced into quarantine once again, perhaps this time with no end.
What could reverse these short lived climate improvements (based on the current trends during COVID-19)?
How can we make this silver lining last?
Overall, we require a mass mindset shift, both socially and politically, to combat climate change. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted exactly what needs fixing and we can ready ourselves for this certain future health and environmental crisis. Obviously, corporations play the largest role in worldwide emissions (e.g. in China, the 25% drop of emissions was mainly credited to a stop in industrial manufacturing). But ultimately, it’s in our hands to take control over something the power hungry will not, because we are still capable of change. This quarantine has especially highlighted what our wants and needs truly are, and if everyone continued through with this behavioral change, the inevitable could be slowed down. Along with small actions such as less car trips, there will hopefully be a mindset shift in which people begin to consider environmental contagions as a real issue and vote accordingly.
Because unlike a virus that will eventually die down, climate change will take much, much longer to recover from, potentially killing us while it’s at it. We are past any prevention stage. We’re living in a world of climate change. But, we don’t have to be a virus to this world. We can be our own vaccine.