Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

11 Apr 2020

COVID-19 and climate change

Posted by Michael Keating

One is coming at us like a runaway train and other like a steamroller. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented global crisis response that has shut down economies and virtually stopped travel as countries struggle to slow the deadly respiratory infection. The world reacted with great speed, as one would in a wartime situation. Meanwhile, climate change keeps up its inexorable pace, threatening us with a series of ecological, economic and social breakdowns, but over years.

The COVID-19 crisis shows that societies can respond very quickly to a crisis when death is imminent. People will grumble but put up with being confined to their homes for weeks at a time rather than face a serious, sometimes fatal illness. But will this willingness to take dramatic action carry over to the climate crisis? It appears unlikely. In Canada, some critics say the federal government did not react fast enough to stop the approaching coronavirus. They say it should have acted sooner to close borders, urge people to wear masks in public, stockpile medical supplies and expand testing for the virus. However, Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in an interview aired today that the public was not ready for drastic measures when the early warnings of the pandemic appeared. “It would have seemed ludicrous in January had we said, ‘Well, what we should do is shut the borders and stop all non-essential work, including government work,’” Ms. Hajdu said. Sadly, this comment applies to our willingness to take drastic steps to stop climate change. We know we need to stop burning fossil fuels, switch to renewable energy, take much bigger steps in energy conservation and change our diets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But, until the threat of disaster is at our doorsteps, too few people are willing to make the changes to give governments permission to bring in the controls we need.

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