Coronavirus and climate change

by Carolyn Zhao | April 6, 2020

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

Right now, you are probably, and should be, reading this from the safety of your home. Out of curiosity, maybe, or perhaps out of boredom. After all, there is a lot of time to fill each day in your state-sanctioned quarantine. But how did we get here in the first place?

As COVID-19 sweeps the globe, news outlets seem to never stop churning out reports of critical mask shortages, predictions of a global economic depression, and disheartening statistics of the climbing fatalities resulting from the virus. In response, new laws are being passed left and right; businesses are being mandated by states to close, despite the economic fallout; and schools nationwide are shifting to at-home schooling. In order to stop this pandemic, huge structural changes are being made—and very rapidly—and everyone must be willing to make sacrifices in order to flatten the curve. Every day, as news of the virus’s worldwide devastation rolls in, we cannot help but feel the duty to do our small but significant parts in stopping the outbreak. It’s easy to do so when the problem is in front of us all the time, but what happens if its apparent effects are not so immediate?

Unlike those of the coronavirus, the impacts of climate change are long-term, and it can be difficult to notice their incremental progression day by day. The paths between human-induced pollution and the resulting problems are long and twisted, and not nearly as linear as simply, “virus leads to death.” But the fundamental connection is still there: the more greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere, the more the Earth’s climate will change, and more of the ecosystem and more people will die as a result. Believe it or not, these changes are happening around us and have been happening for decades. The world is feeling the consequences, be it the historically unprecedented droughts experienced by the Western U.S., the rising sea levels quickly submerging the homes of people in the Philippines, or the spate of wildfires that have recently ravaged the globe, destroying whole towns and billions of organisms in the process.

We, as a human race, are not on track for mitigating climate change. There is less than a decade to enact a complete restructuring of our society if the earth is to remain the habitable home for humanity. The task may seem daunting. However, as the drastic government action taken for the coronavirus has revealed, it is not that massive structural changes cannot happen, it is a matter of “will not.” As with the coronavirus and the many tragedies before it, humanity has suffered from the tendency to hold off action until tolerance becomes intolerable. Well, people are dying. It’s already intolerable. Will we learn from our past mistakes and take action on the climate when we can still mitigate its effects, or will we wait until it is too late? Former teen climate activist Tim Treuer reflects on what was missing in his activism in an article for the Washington Post: “[N]ational action would have required a tapestry of stories woven from young constituents from every office we visited.” As COVID-19 has proven, change can only happen if we all unite and work together. The future of humanity and earth lies in your hands. What will you do?

Categories: Opinions, Science

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