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Coronavirus vs Climate Change

By Solmaz Salehi

Photo via NASA Earth Observatory

According to research published by Columbia University, New York City’s carbon monoxide emissions have been reduced more than 50 percent below the typical levels during the past few weeks of quarantine. In Venice, canal water has been clear since there is no boat traffic. China’s air pollution has gone down drastically. Deers and monkeys are wandering on the streets of Thailand. The lockdowns have had major benefits for the environment. However, these changes should not be celebrated since experts say that these changes are only temporary.


Something that needs to be highlighted is the fact that the pandemic happening now is very close to climate change. It gives us a better idea of how countries and corporations are unprepared. Climate change has been all over the news for years and scientists keep warning everyone that a crisis is imminent. It is moving slower than Coronavirus but it will have drastic negative effects.


“The pandemic is fast, shining a spotlight on our ability or inability to respond to urgent threats. But like pandemics, climate change can be planned for in advance, if politicians pay attention to the warnings of scientists who are sounding the alarm,” said Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and founder of the Pacific Institute in Berkeley.


Even when the world was warned about the Coronavirus outbreak, many countries such as the United States did not take the issue seriously. The president of the United States spent much of January and February “downplaying the crisis, comparing the pathogen with common flu, suggesting it would fade away in warm weather,” reported the Guardian. During a white house force briefing, he said “one day - it’s like a miracle- it will disappear.”


Kate Glavan, NYU political student and climate activist, said that even though a lot of the preventative measures are helping to reduce climate change, there is a decrease in pollution only because there is less transportation. “It’s a very short term and unsustainable way to reduce air pollution,” Glavan said. She then continued to explain how Coronavirus is revealing that we are not prepared for crises and only begin to adapt once it is too late.


Eco-fascism is a term that could be used in this situation. In simple words, eco-fascism is a theory that leaders will create a status quo that only holds up a small proportion of the population and the rest will suffer.


This example is seen with climate refugees. When a natural disaster happens due to climate change, many countries don’t want to take care of those who have lost their jobs or houses and need to migrate.


It’s a similar situation with the behaviors of many countries for Coronavirus. A health care system for all is missing in The United States.

The trend that we are seeing between climate change and coronavirus is the depiction of the class divide in this country between the rich and the poor, the haves and have nots. The rich are hoarding resources like emptying supermarkets, have access to testing and so on,”

Glavan explained. “I think there is a misnomer with climate science that once everyone knows that climate change is real, has read all the data and believes in the science, that suddenly society's going to change and that's not true. We knew that slavery was bad but people did not seem to change that,” she says. Once we are out of this recession that the virus has caused, Glavan says that that is going to be the moment for policymakers to make changes about fossil fuels.

The question that will remain is: Will the effort to rescue the global economy after this pandemic accelerate the emissions of planet-warming gases, rather than prevent climate change? The answer depends on the world’s big economies such as China and the United States and whether they use this time to enforce laws that will put an end to fossil fuel industries or not.

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