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Current Affairs

COVID-19 lessons on fighting global heating and extinction

Date: 04 July 2020 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

A new study argues that the spread of coronavirus shares common characteristics with two other crises, global heating and the impending “sixth mass extinction”.

 

Details

  • Climate change and COVID-19 are two very different challenges, but they do have some key things in common. Both are global - they do not respect national boundaries - and both require countries to work together to find solutions. 

  • The researchers make a case for learning lessons from Covid-19 and using these in fighting global heating and species extinction.

  • Lessons learned in containing Covid-19 — the need for early intervention, the curbing of some aspects of lifestyles — should also be at the heart of averting environmental catastrophe.

  • Both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic require us to listen to experts, to unite behind the science and not play politics with people’s lives.

  • This means responding to the challenge at the appropriate scale and treating a crisis like a crisis with the urgency that’s needed. 

  • Among the shared characteristics described, one is that each new Covid-19 case can spawn others and so lead to escalating infection rates — just as hotter climates alter ecosystems, increasing emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause warming.

  • The team also compares “lagged impacts”. For coronavirus, the duration or lag before symptoms materialise means that infected people spread the disease before they feel effects and change behavior.

  • The researchers equate this with the lag between our destruction of habitat and eventual species extinction, as well as lags between the emissions we pump out and the full effects of global heating, such as sea-level rise.