Author: Danko Kalkan, Green Finance and Environmental Management Expert at ProCredit bank
What are the similarities and differences between the pandemic and climate crisis and why is the latter underrated? Although there are numerous similarities between these two types of crisis, they are fundamentally different. Still, there are several lessons we could learn and apply in combating climate change.
In times when people lose lives every day to the ongoing pandemic, imposing other topics for discussion or writing about other issues is a daunting task. However, we don’t need to be extremely wise to see that this is neither the first nor the last crisis the humanity has faced. Therefore, it is an imperative to remind everyone of the dangers lurking ’just around the corner’.
Why is the climate crisis underrated?
It is more difficult to raise awareness of the impact of climate change because its consequences are generally felt sporadically, out of sync and in different geographical locations (such as fires, floods, etc.). In addition, some of the changes brought about by climate change take longer to manifest or are not so noticeable in one generation (species extinction, declining crop yields, rising sea and ocean levels, etc.).
Some of the changes brought about by climate change take longer to manifest or are not so noticeable in one generation – for example, the species extinction, declining crop yields, rising sea and ocean levels
Also, due to sporadic manifestations of the negative consequences of climate change, in most cases, only the outcomes of such events are remedied, while a systematic approach to “treating” the causes of these phenomena is rarely utilized. This creates a false perception that we are capable of solving problems, simultaneously forgetting their causes.
All in all, human nature compels us to react to the imminent danger only, to what is threatening us at a given moment. Only then we are ready to swiftly change our lifestyles and our habits.
The essential difference between the pandemic and environmental crisis is in establishing the connection between cause and effect
Although there are many similarities, there is a fundamental difference between the two crises. The coronavirus is present and can be felt on a daily basis. Therefore, in the absence of a prompt reaction, the consequences are reflected in the loss of a large number of human lives over a short period of time.
Although climate change also contributes to the increase in mortality, general public fails to make a direct connection between death and greenhouse gas emissions
On the other hand, dealing with the consequences of climate change requires broader systemic action, which could take years to be fully implemented. This is why it is difficult to feel compelled to react quickly and efficiently.
Although climate change also contributes to the increase in mortality, general public fails to make a direct connection between death and greenhouse gas emissions or the consequences of their excessive accumulation in the atmosphere. On the other hand, in infectious diseases, the connection between cause (a virus) and consequence (disease, death) is much more obvious, therefore simpler to understand and accept.
What lessons can we learn from the coronavirus crisis
The crisis caused by the extremely rapid spread of the coronavirus has led us to think about what we can learn from it. The following ten lessons can help us fight climate change:
It is essential to establish flexible and resilient institutions in a timely manner. We must establish flexible and resilient institutions in a timely manner, focusing on development priorities. These institutions must utilize early warning indicators, as it turns out that we lack the ability to predict the hazards which can be manifested from certain risks. The fact remains that both the pandemic and climate change are crises which were possible to predict. Additionally, we need to use more computer models and perform stress testing for various potential future scenarios.
Both the pandemic and climate change were possible to predict
The future depends on new knowledges and innovations. The knowledge acquired in the previous years is obviously insufficient to adequately respond to all aspects of risks and the way they manifest themselves. While the new virus requires a new treatment and vaccine, the fight against climate change requires new holistic tools that lead to systemic solutions – zero emissions, energy efficiency, sustainable use of resources and food production and the like.
Global cooperation and solidarity must be raised to a new level. One thing that the corona crisis has demonstrated is a considerable disunity in combating the disease. Even geographically close countries with a similar concentration of the disease implement completely different methods in fighting the pandemic. Like the contagion, climate change does not recognize borders. This brings us to one conclusion: without international cooperation, there is no success. Now, more than ever, the world needs us to enable sharing information and best practices, and the great powers must abandon the politics of confrontation.
Even geographically close countries with a similar concentration of the disease implement completely different methods in fighting the pandemic
Data, information, knowledge, communication and transparency are the five pillars of success. What leads to success in the fight against crises is trust in the system, and it is formed only through communication based on scientific facts. Unfortunately, as in the case of climate change, politicians see their opportunities in a crisis, jeopardize said pillars of success and deprive scientists of freedom and space, thus allowing conspiracy theorists to get their fifteen minutes of fame. However, the coronavirus crisis is a great test for scientists as well as an opportunity to change and reinforce the manner of communicating the facts about climate change, which must be convincing and acceptable to the majority.
It is necessary to find a solution which is applicable to both rich and poor countries. It is common knowledge that crises hit poor countries the hardest. What is even more devastating is the fact that these countries have the least impact on the outbreak of crises. It is finally time to find adaptable solutions to protect all regions and countries equally.
As in the case of climate change, politicians jeopardize success and deprive scientists of freedom and space, allowing conspiracy theorists to get their fifteen minutes of fame
Extreme measures can mobilize millions of people and give quick results, but … It is estimated that, as a consequence of significantly reduced movement of goods and people due to the ‘lockdown’, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 8% this year. In order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, this level of annual reduction of greenhouse gas emission is desirable in the future as well. However, it is clear that a complete ‘lockdown’ cannot last until 2050, because the economy and society would be devastated. We must not forget that sustainable development requires a balance between economic, social and environmental goals. Certainly, a more favourable option is to replace the use of fossil fuels with renewable sources as soon as possible and to improve energy efficiency.
New crises always highlight weaknesses that have not been successfully overcome in the past. The accumulated problems that have been swept ‘under the carpet’, reappear as ‘skeletons from the closet’ in a new crisis. We are witnesses that during this year, the problems of racism, famine, poor education, etc., have become relevant again. It is necessary to keep in mind that a crisis does not come alone, and it is necessary to anticipate the necessity of utilizing additional energy, knowledge and leadership skills to resolve several problems occurring at the same time.
A crisis does not come alone and it is necessary to anticipate the necessity of utilizing additional energy, knowledge and leadership skills
The pandemic was not caused by climate change, but climate change facilitates the spread of the disease. Deteriorating climatic conditions can significantly endanger health conditions (for example, in cases of extreme weather conditions, such as storms, fires, etc., many people may be left without a home and health care and thus be exposed to infectious diseases). Solving the problem of climate change significantly reduces the potential for the spread of infectious diseases.
Crises make us think about what we really need in life. Also, the necessity of greater self-sufficiency in food, medicine, resources and energy is restated. In addition to responsible, sustainable production, it is very important not to forget responsible consumption.
Most meetings can be held online – transport alone accounts for about 25% of global emissions
The adaptability of the business sector is enormous. The corona pandemic has proven that certain meetings and trips can absolutely be reorganized – most of the important meetings can be held via online channels. As transport alone accounts for about 25% of global emissions, new circumstances can help the business sector to further contribute to the fight against climate change.