Home / Feature / Human-caused climate change and Covid-19

Human-caused climate change and Covid-19

Rayhan Ahmed Topader:

 

Coronavirus may only be the beginning of global pandemics a future scenario in which climate change may also play a role.We have entered a pandemic era,” said a recent study in the journal Cell. Written by Dr.Anthony Fauci and medical historian Dr. David Morens, both of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the study paints a picture of a future where pandemics become more numerous.But climate change’s possible role is complicated: We know that the virus survives longer in cold temperatures than hot, so that could mean that a warmer planet would slow the spread of the disease, said meteorologist Jeff Masters, who writes for Yale Climate Connections. On the other hand, he said heat waves cause people to spend more time indoors in air-conditioned spaces, where the spread of the disease increases.

A global crisis has shocked the world. It is causing a tragic number of deaths, making people afraid to leave home, and leading to economic hardship not seen in many generations. Its effects are rippling across the world,” Gates wrote. “Obviously, I am talking about COVID-19. But in just a few decades, the same description will fit another global crisis: climate change.Climate change could be more devastating than Covid-19 pandemic.Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing, China.

As awful as this pandemic is, climate change could be worse.To prevent the deaths, damage and destruction that will come with a warming planet requires innovation.That has become more clear than ever before because though the pandemic has brought travel and economic activity almost to a standstill, greenhouse gas emissions still haven’t been reduced enough to stave off the worst ramifications. What’s remarkable is not how much emissions will go down because of the pandemic.And innovation to fight climate change must start urgently. Unlike the novel coronavirus, for which I think we’ll have a vaccine next year, there is no two-year fix for climate change. It will take decades to develop and deploy all the clean-energy inventions we need.To do that, the United States needs to have the equivalent of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for energy innovation, Gates said in another blog post published in December. Setting up a National Institutes of Energy Innovation is “the most important thing the U.S.can do to lead the world in innovations that will solve climate change.That’s because currently, “there’s no central office that’s responsible for evaluating and nurturing great idea.For example, research on clean fuels is managed by offices in the departments of Energy, Transportation, and Defense-and even NASA. Similarly, responsibility for research on energy storage is spread across at least four offices in the Department of Energy.

Former Google CEO and billionaire Eric Schmidt wrote in a Medium blog post on Sept. 14 that the federal government needs to spend more money on science to prevent another devastating pandemic.There’s a problem. Science funding in the United States is at a low point. In fact, it’s the lowest it’s been since 1957. Only 0.7% of our is spent on federal research and development, There’s a case to be made that 2020, for all the sacrifices it demanded and tragedies it inflicted, could at least mark a turning point on climate change. It’s now possible that global oil demand and greenhouse-gas emissions may have already peaked in 2019, since the pandemic could slow economic growth for years, accelerate the demise of coal, and bring about long-lasting declines in energy demand through things like continued remote working.

On top of that, a growing number of major companies and nations, including China, have committed to zero out their emissions by around midcentury. The election of Joe Biden will put a president in the White House who has committed to take bold action on climate change. Clean technologies like solar, wind, batteries, and electric vehicles are getting cheaper and gaining ground in the market place.And in the final days of the year, the US Congress managed to authorize tens of billions of dollars for clean power projects within a sweeping coronavirus relief bill. The package also enacted tightening limits on hydrofluorocarbons—highly potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

In an essay in August, when global covid-19 deaths stood at around 600,000. Scientist

pointed out that climate change fatalities could reach that level by 2060-but as an annual occurrence.By the end of the century, the death toll could be five times that figure.

If the pandemic offers any clear lessons, it’s that even all that loss may not persuade many of the reality of climate change or the necessity to act-particularly since those deaths will tick up gradually. Politicians can still find ways to downplay the dangers and exploit the issue to sow division, rather than seeking common cause. And we may simply learn to live with the elevated risks, particularly since they’ll disproportionately harm those in the poorest, hottest parts of the world who had the least to do with causing climate change.I have every confidence that we have the technical and economic capacity to address most of the risks of climate change. I’m pretty sure we will begin to move faster than we have in the past. I think we’ll make a lot of progress on cutting emissions. I bet we’re going to rebuild big parts of our infrastructure to address some of the increased dangers. I’m certain that some areas, particularly in the global North, will continue to thrive, and some will even grow richer. But I fear we still don’t fully recognize that we’re on the cusp of failing in very tragic ways. Given where our emissions are and where they need to be, it’s nearly impossible to see how we’re going to move fast enough at this point to prevent 2 ˚C of warming.

And that will mean staggering levels of otherwise preventable death, suffering, and ecological destruction.It should be a call to arms. But it’s hard to look at 2020 and come away feeling optimistic about our collective ability to grapple with complex problems in rational or humane ways even, or perhaps especially, in the midst of multiple unfolding calamities. One expert said that almost certainly, the impacts of pandemics such as Covid-19 are exacerbated by climate chan.Meteorologist Michael Mann of Penn State University called climate change a threat multiplier, meaning it amplifies existing challenges and threats by increasing our vulnerability and reducing our adaptive capacity..He said to consider, for example, the situation in Puerto Rico, where many people have died of Covid-19 for the simple reason that they have not yet recovered, in terms of their public health infrastructure, from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Maria three years ago.There is no doubt in my mind that the storm was made more destructive by unusually warm tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperatures, which provide more energy and moisture for the storm,” Mann said. This anomalous warmth can only be explained taking into account human-caused climate change. Instead, overlapping climate disasters could poison our politics even further, making all of us more selfish, more focused on our own comfort and safety, and less willing to sacrifice for or invest in a better common future.

Writer and Columnist

raihan567@yahoo.com