Let’s start with the simple stats – coronavirus till date has killed nearly 35k people across the world at this point and has already been declared a pandemic. The governments have taken stringent steps across the nations despite knowing the deadly impacts it can have on their economies.
But do you know that currently, we have something more deadlier than COVID-19 amongst us? According to a WHO report, air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people each year worldwide, and let’s not forget – air pollution is just one aspect of the climate crisis. Climate crisis is a global emergency that has already killed millions and is on a path to wipe out a more significant population – yet there are no emergency meetings, no political statements, no serious plan of actions at a global level. With researchers working hard to develop a vaccine, we’ll surely be able to overcome any of the virus pandemics, however with climate crisis- we have already run out of time and are now just waiting to see the disastrous consequences
Let’s have a look at the exceptional events that took place recently:
1. Evident signs of climate change, such as increasing land and ocean heat, increasing sea-levels and melting ice, contributed to making 2019 the second warmest year on record according to World Meteorological Organization.
2. In 2019, online platform Global Forest Watch Fires accounted for over 4.5 million fires worldwide and that’s a total of 400,000 more fire incidents than 2018. The recent wildfire in Australia also joins the list of wildfires destroying more than eight million hectares and killing twenty-five people and millions of animals. Experts say climate change has just worsened the scope and impact of natural disasters like fires and floods — weather conditions are growing more extreme. For years, the fires have been starting earlier in the season and spreading with higher intensity.
3. The Arctic experienced its worst wildfire season on record, with considerable blazes in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska producing plumes of smoke that can be seen from space. The Arctic region recorded its hottest June ever in 2019. In Russia, 11 of 49 areas were experiencing wildfires
4. Southern Africa was hit with possibly the worst weather-related disaster ever to hit the southern hemisphere. Cyclone IDAI resulted in the death of more than 360 people, injured thousands and destroyed homes, livestock and crops. Some 2.6 million people were impacted by cyclone IDAI.
5. Antarctica is melting away faster than it was melting decades ago. Great masses of ice that scientists once considered were mostly immune to melting are losing ample ice into the sea.
All these and many other natural events involve complex systems. But what they all have in common is heat. Heat exaggerates all the natural disasters, and according to the UN, we have less than ten years to prevent a 1.5C rise above pre-industrial temperature, but, whatever happens, we will suffer.
Different ways of dealing with an equally dangerous crisis
The point to think about today is that we have two emergencies – Coronavirus and Climate crisis which are similarly critical, yet our response to both these scenarios are so different. Maybe because coronavirus has an immediate visible impact on human lives and Climate crisis is a kind of a slow deadly virus which will impact us over the years. However, we do have something to learn from coronavirus – The faster we act, the lesser we suffer- same goes for climate – The earlier we control it, the less we are going to be impacted by it.
Is environment healing?
More than half of the world is under lockdown and economies are shrinking – we have stepped into a global recession. But, in the meantime, the environment is healing itself. Pollution monitoring satellites from NASA and the European Space Agency have detected significant decreases of nitrogen dioxide over China since January 1.
A similar pattern has emerged with carbon dioxide (CO2) – released by burning fossil fuels such as coal. As the world’s biggest polluter, China contributes 30% of the world’s CO2 emissions annually, so the impact of this kind of drop is enormous, even over a short period. India is the third-largest contributor to the world CO2 emissions. However, owing to lockdown,120 cities of India – including New Delhi. Environmental resource economist Marshall Burke says there is a proven link between poor air quality and premature deaths linked to breathing that air. ‘With this in mind’, he said, ‘a natural – if admittedly strange – the question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from COVID-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself. “Even under very conservative assumptions, We think the answer is a definite ‘yes’.”
What to learn?
But yes, all these benefits are temporary, the economy will revive, and we will get back to our normal lives, but the question is should we get back to old normal or find a sustainable normal. Coronavirus has given us a light of hope. Imagine what we could do if we kept people’s health and wellbeing front and centre in decision-making. Most of the companies have allowed Work from home to their employees, why can’t we continue the same trend for the roles where it is possible to do that. World leaders need to consider Climate crisis an urgent matter and take action just the way they’re doing with the coronavirus. We need to bring this same sense of urgency and personal responsibility to the climate movement and treat this as a real urgency; else climate crisis will destroy human lives in more significant ways than any of the viruses.