At time of writing this we are still very much in a state of lockdown although there is perhaps a slight ray of hope that according to our exalted Dr. Bonnie Henry we might begin to ease off on restrictions by the middle of May if all continues as it has been. (In other words we continue to physical distance, self isolate, wash hands frequently and yes even perhaps wear a mask when we cannot safely physical distance).
There have clearly been some benefits from COVID-19 as far as the climate goes, There is less air pollution as evidenced by reduced Nitrogen Dioxide due to reduced use of vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities. C02 emissions are also down due to reduction in the burning of fossil fuels. While the estimates are variable it is likely that overall emissions will be down by 5 percent this year depending on how long things are shutdown. This is good news indeed but it has taken a drastic shutdown of our world of activity as we know it to achieve this. The bad news is that in order to meet the climate change targets set out for us this decade we need to continue with almost as much of a reduction in emissions to achieve an overall reduction of 45 percent by 2030. How we might ask are we to do this if it has taken such a seemingly unsustainable change of our world to achieve even a 5 percent reduction? We no doubt will need to broaden our efforts more widely, particularly increasing renewable energy sources while continuing to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
How are we to compare the danger of COVID-19 (a true viral pandemic that in a short period of time can kill thousands worldwide; as you read this we are only 4 months into this pandemic) to the danger of climate change, which is capable of being a greater challenge. We may not be aware that air pollution is said to be responsible for 7 Millions deaths worldwide each year. (Lancet journal). We just don’t see this happening in front of our eyes and we attribute these deaths to just those dying with chronic disease. Then there are all the deaths associated with the extremes of weather we are seeing as well as the rising level of the oceans and displacement of people from this. We could go on and on. The question is when we get through the threat of COVID-19, how will we look at the threat of climate change?
I do believe that we are at a point where we are pressing the reset button. Something has gone wrong with our operating system and it is time for a reboot! My metaphor for our situation is as follows: We are standing on a precipice overlooking the water and a landslide is bearing down on us. We have no choice but to jump in and dive down into the water but there is a great barrier in front of us. We take a very deep breath and dive deep. Suddenly we see a dim light ahead of us and with all our might we swim under the barrier and somehow manage to come up on the other side. The question is what do we find on the other side and do we remember anything that we might have learned before we were forced to jump?
Is there any HOPE for us on the other side? I believe there is. One thing I hope is that while we have been forced to stay at home, that we have had more opportunity to be calm ourselves and pay more attention to the world around us and to our neighbours. As we have learned to perhaps make do with less during this time, and have not been able to go shopping whenever we want for things we don’t really need, I hope we will continue to live a more simple life and reduce the consumerism that drives our economy and the fossil fuels that drive it. I hope that we will realize that climate change is overall a much bigger threat to us and our planet than COVID-19. I hope that we will learn to care for our planet that allows us to survive. I hope that we will pressure our politicians to do the things that they have promised they will do to meet the targets the scientists tell us we must meet in order to avoid catastrophic destruction of life in the years to come.
To meet the threat of climate change we will need to do more than we have done to fight COVID-19. I believe we will be able to do what needs to be done. I have HOPE that we can learn to care for ourselves, for one another, and for the world we live in, in a sustainable way that will be good for our children and our grandchildren and for those who will come after them. I believe this because in the end it is a better way of life.