Is There a Climate Silver Lining to the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Air quality massively improved temporarily in many cities, like New Delhi

Since lockdown started you may have read some good news about reduction in carbon emissions and pollution, particularly in large cities around the world.

The improvement in air quality is a silver lining to the gloomy cloud that is COVID-19, however there is a temptation to look at the images of clear skies over New Delhi and other usually heavily polluted cities and feel this will be a turning point for climate breakdown.

But will it really make a difference?

The reality is that when looking at current forecasts, CO2 levels in the atmosphere will still rise considerably this year, only reducing by around 11% from the reduction caused by COVID-19. So although air quality may have temporarily improved, the reality of climate breakdown has not gone away.

Some experts also share concerns that the expected economic recession is not good news for the climate either, as strong economies are better able to cope with change and international relations may be jeopardised by COVID-19, making it hard to tackle the issue on a global scale as we need to.

A New Normal

Many people have started to talk about a ‘new normal’ coming out of lockdown. A new normal where we re-prioritise what is important, like maintaining the sense of community, focusing on our mental and physical wellbeing and continuing to appreciate our public services and key workers. However I’ve not heard anyone talking about how we can take learning from this pandemic and apply it to our approach to tackling an even bigger threat to our species, climate breakdown.

China are ahead of the rest of the world in their recovery from COVID-19 and we could look to China for an indication of measures other countries may take in the recovery phase. Meeting notes of the Communist Party Central Committee in China at the end of March emphasised meeting “economic and social development targets”, including the goal of doubling GDP from 2010 to 2020. This would require almost 6% GDP growth in 2020. Worryingly the document makes no mention of the climate or environmental measures.

If we’re going to limit global warming to below the 1.5 degrees many experts believe we need to in order to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown we need to ensure our new normal is much kinder on our planet and although it might feel like a difficult time to focus on the climate, now is not the time to put climate action on lockdown.

As a species we have shown incredible resilience in the face of COVID-19 and we’ve changed the way we live to protect ourselves and others. Now we need to change the way we live to protect our planet by making better choices and demanding more from our leaders 🌍.

Thanks for reading.

Jack Barber

You can read the original post from 12th May 2020 on Jack’s Linkedin profile here

Main image photo by Ben Collins on Unsplash

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