Climate Change response lacking in relation to battling coronavirus
I have been reading an article written by Kim DeRidder, the Regional Director for Environmental Programs at the Asia Foundation, where he leads programming in climate change, natural resource management and disaster risk reduction.
Mr. Deridder’s article, titled, ‘Covid -19 vs Climate Change: What Can We Learn?’ was first published on the Devpolicy Blog and co-published by the Asia Foundation.
Here are some interesting and concerning observations Mr. DeRidder mentioned.
“Perhaps the most intriguing question relates to the dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions caused by the global lockdown. If humanity can put our economies on hold as a safeguard from a global threat like COVID-19, why haven’t we been able to take similar measures to confront a global killer like climate change? The latter does not require that we put our economies on hold. But it does require us to revamp the energy and consumption infrastructure that drives them–transitioning from fossil fuel reliance to renewable energy resources: from consumption to sustainability. There are more than a few parallels between the two crises: death and disruption on a global scale; heavy reliance on science to inform policy responses; and those most affected largely powerless to influence the mitigation measures taken.
“By the time the last of 120 countries worldwide went on lockdown on April 23, COVID-19 was responsible for 3 out of every 1000 deaths globally, which is both tragic and alarming. It is notable however, that as far back as seventeen years ago climate change was already estimated to be responsible for 3 out of every 1000 deaths annually, from increased heat exposure, malaria, dengue, under nutrition, and diarrhoea alone. This ratio didn’t account for the thousands more dying annually in increasingly frequent climate-related disasters such as floods, drought, and cyclones.
“Today, we now know this metric is only the tip of the melting iceberg. The World Health Organization now tracks deaths caused by the drivers of global warming—namely, black carbon, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, together with ozone and carbon monoxide. The number? Eight million each year. That’s 140 out of every 1000 deaths globally, and 46 times the proportion of deaths from COVID-19 at global lockdown. And we have only just begun to feel the effects of climate change. Far more serious impacts are projected for the future, including ecosystem collapses, more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and more, ensuring that climate-related mortality rates will only rise.
“So why hasn’t the world responded to climate change with anything resembling the speed of response and political will it has demonstrated for battling the coronavirus? “Cost? Apparently not. By way of example, it would cost the United States about $5.7 trillion to transition completely to renewable energy over 15 years, while it has already committed $6 trillion to COVID-19 in the past three months. Granted, transitioning the entire global economy to renewable energy will be considerably more expensive; but it will surely be less than the monumental costs of a global climate crisis. So, if money isn’t the deciding factor, what is?”