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Coronavirus Shows Us What Our Future Could Look Like During Climate Crisis

Coronavirus Shows Us What Our Future Could Look Like During Climate Crisis, BY Sharon Zhang, Truthout, March 29, 2020  The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly been absorbed into our collective consciousness, remaking the fabric of our lives. Suddenly, millions are sheltering in place, strangers have started wishing each other well when exiting grocery stores, people have stopped touching their faces and shelves that are normally stocked with bleach and hand sanitizer are barren.

For many, the looming sense of dread is a new sensation….

But for those of us who have lived in acute awareness of the reality of the climate crisis, the current state of pandemic dread feels awfully familiar — just a more imminent version of the dread about the climate that we have been feeling for years.

It’s a psychological phenomenon known informally in the climate community as climate anxiety, climate grief or eco-anxiety…….

Though the pandemic-panic that Mull and others have written on has been ongoing for the past few weeks, climate writers started opening up about their climate grief years ago. …….

But it’s not just psychological trauma that these two crises share — if you take the time to look, the similarities run wide and deep. These are twin worldwide crises that require global cooperation to defeat; they will ravage the way of life as we know it; they will affect, in one way or another, nearly every single person on Earth.

The economy as we know it — rather, as we knew it three months ago — will be a thing of the past if we let the climate crisis continue unmitigated…….

Economists are currently struggling to model all of the short-term effects of the pandemic, so many of those remain unknown. Climate researchers, however, have had much more time to model the future economic impacts of the climate crisis. By 2090, in the U.S. alone and under the same high emissions scenario, NCA researchers predict that costs from mortality due to extreme temperatures will total $141 billion a year, losses of coastal property will total $118 billion a year, and labor losses will cost $155 billion a year. That’s equivalent to a Hurricane Katrina every single year, just from lost labor.

The health care system, too, will be overwhelmed by the climate crisis, just as hospital beds are rapidly being filled by COVID-19 patients. In some places, the climate crisis has already given a preview of this: In 2018, record heat waves caused U.K. hospitals to utilize emergency procedures, when people were being sent to the hospital in such an overwhelming volume that ambulances had to line up outside.

Though COVID-19 is causing hospitals to fill up simultaneously nationwide, “climate-related events will be more limited in their spatial scale, but will be increasingly frequent over time,” says Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. A heat wave in San Francisco won’t set the whole country ablaze, but it could overwhelm the local health care system.

The key difference between illness caused by a pandemic and the climate crisis, Dahl points out, is that it’s much easier to trace the illness caused by the former. “Things like hurricanes and heat waves and wildfires have always occurred,” she says, but, “to some extent, we know that we are amping them up by adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”

This is likely, in part, why the federal government has quickly pivoted to action on COVID-19, while greenhouse gases have remained largely untouched by Congress for decades. While right-wing media and politicians denied the consequences of inaction on the virus just weeks ago, they have quickly had to change their tune as the spread of the virus has become undeniable. Whereas with long-term, gradual change, it’s easy for deniers to blame such things as the severity of the bushfires in Australia on anything but increasingly hot and arid conditions caused by climate change.

The ruling class has also had less motivation to address the climate crisis because the people suffering the most are, disproportionately, already marginalized. Poor, Black and health-compromised people are and will be the hardest hit by both crises — and some are already being affected by both at once. Air pollution is continually one of the most pronounced issues of environmental justice, and physicians have said those with continual exposure to air pollution are likely to be more vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus……..

“Coronavirus has made so clear that global issues can’t be easily categorized as just a health issue or just an environmental issue,” says says Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “They really encompass our broader economy and encompass or entire social systems and ways of life.”  …..

March 30, 2020 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, health

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