The Double Crisis

By Rogers Tulyahabwe from Uganda.

The covid 19 pandemic is wrecking havoc in countries across the globe, causing a global health crisis and forcing the economies to slow down due to the strict quarantine measures, with further consequences ranging from closed boarders, scarce hand sanitizers, to house arrests to ensure social distancing measures. Bad as that may be, the pandemic has impacted the environment in a very intriguing way. 

The carbon dioxide emissions and human mobility have been reduced leading to improved air quality lessening on the pollution in the air due to commuting because of  “work from home” policies, industries and aviation being on operation halt, among others.  

According to Randolph Bell, Director of the global energy center explained in the Atlantic council that the economic recession linked by the virus is likely to cause a drop in the carbon dioxide emissions this year. For example, NASA satellite indicated a 25% reduction of carbon emissions in China after 4 weeks of lockdown. The drop in the emission, according to Marshall Burke from the department of earth system science at Stanford University, lives of 4000 children below the age of 5 and 73000 adults over the age of 70 were saved just in 2 months. The creation of a functional economic systems that supports people without threatening the life on earth should be a priority.

The long desired reduction in carbon emission should not have come through this ugly pandemic, because COVID19 has had a dark cost to our lives and our mental health threatened. 

Due to the COVID19, we have all come to realize that the inaction of countries against the deadly climate change has not been due to their lack of economic strength. According to the Asia Foundation, it would cost the United States about $5.7 trillion to completely transition to renewable energy over 15 years. Ironically, the United States was able to commit $6 trillion to COVID19 in the first three (3) months of the outbreak alone.

So the question I keep asking myself is, why hasn’t the world responded to climate change with anything resembling the speed and political will it has marshaled to battle the corona virus? 

If money isn’t the deciding factor, what is?

If humanity can put our economies on hold as a safeguard from a global threat like Covid-19, why haven’t we been able to take similar measures to confront a global killer like climate change? The latter does not require that we put our economies on hold, it only require us to revamp the energy and consumption infrastructure that drives them, transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy resources. There are more than a few parallels between the two crises: death and disruption on a global scale, heavy reliance on science to inform policy responses, and the powerlessness of those most affected to influence what mitigation measures are taken.

I do personally believe that strategies, such as, a) Levying new carbon taxes on fossil fuels and removing subsidies for oil, gas and coal could provide much-needed income for cash-strapped cities, states and countries as coronavirus shutdowns slash other revenues, b) putting policies in place to encourage people to keep working from home even after COVID19 could hold down emissions from committing. 

Due to this pandemic, we will have a new baseline of what can be achieved. Times of change can lead to the introduction of long-lasting sustainable habits.

Just as much, States/governments should proactively spend billions to “green” their economies. As we marshal huge resources for post-Covid-19 economic recovery, we have a unique opportunity to make a paradigm shift. As with the current pandemic, so too with climate change: the longer we delay necessary action, the more far-reaching, costly, and lethal will be the consequences. 

Author

Rogers Tulyhabwe is a blogger. Check him out http://earthriser.blogspot.com/

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