COVID-19 quickly appeared and quickly spread. Countries are having to go to extreme lengths to fight the virus and its effects, from the $1.5 trillion injected into the bond market, to travel restrictions, to talk of stimulus cheques.
The public is worried, and for the most part supports government efforts to contain the virus and prevent infections.
Climate change shows the opposite trend. Our elected leaders often pretend it does not exist or try to explain away its effects with lies. Some governments accept reality but are only implementing half measures to defeat it.
So, why such a difference between a viral pathogen and an existential threat?
The speed at which a crisis evolves is a huge factor in our response to it.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is acutely dangerous to humans and will kill a few percent of victims (the exact percentage still being under debate) but climate change is an even larger threat that will affect 100% of humanity. No exceptions.
No one will recover from it, there is no drug treatment that can ever be invented to defeat it, and it changes the trajectory of human civilization for the worse, forever.
Coronavirus appeared and spread rapidly. Its effects also occur quickly after infection, be they symptoms and/or contagiousness. Climate change, on the other hand, has been known for decades and grows very slowly.
The harmful effects are much larger, but the worst of them are in the distant future, indirect, and grow in scale gradually. Human nature is attuned to rapid responses to rapidly evolving situations, but our nature is terrible at handling slow-moving ones.
Climate change or climate crisis is happening too slowly to be considered an acute emergency despite the fact it’s an even larger existential risk.
We are speeding towards 1.5°C without blinking. Our trajectory is probably closer to 4°C by the end of the century. If that happens, coronavirus COVID-19 will end up looking like a hiccup.
Once we beat COVID-19 we need to use the same zeal we applied to defeating it and immediately redirect it towards carbon pollution. This has been modeled, we know why it’s happening, how it works, and how to fight it. We also have the technology to defeat it. And bonus, that technology is cost effective.
Reference- The Guardian, BBC, Clean Technica, Scientific America