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The Coronavirus and Climate Change: How We’re Making the Same Mistakes

The Coronavirus and Climate Change: How We’re Making the Same Mistakes, Charles Kutscher  12 Apr 20, We Americans are now experiencing the tragic consequences of our slow, uncoordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic. While this experience will surely help us respond better to future health crises, it’s important we apply the hard lessons learned to even greater disasters. In particular, there are many parallels between the coronavirus pandemic and the climate change crisis. We need to recognize that we’re making the same mistakes with climate change and correct them before it’s too late. Below are some of these key blunders.

Failure to heed the warnings

Scientific experts warned us for months about COVID-19, just as they have warned us for decades about climate change. The rapid spread and deadly impact of the disease in other countries, especially in Italy, should have given us plenty of advance warning that we were headed down a similar path. In the case of climate change, we have witnessed countless warnings. As the result of a 1°C temperature rise to date, we have seen unprecedented wildfires in California and Australia, record heat waves and drought across the globe, more powerful storms, and more frequent major floods, to list but a few. In fact, while no direct connection has been made between COVID-19 and climate change, the changing climate is accelerating the incidence of other deadly diseases, such as the West Nile virus. Within the next 50 years, climate change could subject a billion more people to serious vector-borne diseases. It’s critical that we recognize the enormous impacts climate change is already having and heed the warnings of climate scientists who have painted a clear picture of what the future holds if we don’t act aggressively.

Failure to comprehend the delay between the problem and its consequences……..

Being misled by disinformation

With both the coronavirus and climate change, our sluggish response is largely the result of human denial. Both the Chinese and U.S. governments downplayed the threat of the virus. In the case of climate change, the oil and gas industry has a strong financial motive to discount the impact of fossil fuel emissions, and it has long funded an extensive campaign to make light of the effects of climate change. …….

Lack of federal leadership

In the absence of federal action, the governors of states such as Washington and California have had to play leadership roles in limiting the spread of the virus and expanding hospital capability to care for the victims. But relying on individual states has resulted in a competitive, patchwork approach that has proven to be a costly, inefficient means to address a national crisis……

Moreover, with both crises, the federal government has actually been moving in exactly the opposite direction from what is needed. In 2018 the current administration weakened the White House pandemic response capability, leaving us less prepared to face the coronavirus. In the case of climate change, the administration is simultaneously withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and scaling back automobile fuel efficiency standards, as just two examples. Furthermore, the federal government continues to provide generous subsidies for fossil fuels — the very cause of climate change.

Looking ahead

It’s important we recognize that the blunders we’ve made in addressing the coronavirus are the same ones we’re making in addressing the much bigger climate change crisis. Climate change impacts have greatly worsened over time, but we have continued to ignore the warnings. The delay between our burning of fossil fuels and the environmental consequences has lulled us into a state of inaction, and this has been exacerbated by an ongoing disinformation campaign. We’ve been scaling back — and even reversing — federal action at the exact time we should be accelerating it.

Our experience with COVID-19 will almost certainly prepare us better for the next pandemic. But there is no second chance when it comes to climate change. It’s not as if we can let the ice sheets melt this time and protect them better when they return in the future. With climate change, we’ve got one shot at thinking ahead and addressing this crisis — one shot at understanding what scientists have long been telling us about how bad a 3°C or 4°C temperature rise will be. As with the coronavirus pandemic, climate change is an international crisis that calls for a comprehensive federal commitment to address it. Let’s stop making the same mistakes we’ve made with COVID-19.

April 12, 2020 - Posted by | climate change, health, USA

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