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COVID-19 Lessons: Dealing with Climate Change

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The emergence of COVID-19 has led to a humanitarian crisis still unfolding in the world. Nations are witnessing unprecedented times with lockdowns, work from home, distant education, and masks and sanitisers becoming a norm. While several reports have highlighted our under-preparedness in dealing with the virus, the lessons learnt from one crisis can help curb the consequences of another in the making- Climate Change.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it uncertainty and fear. It has taken a toll on people and their livelihoods- leading to an economic hardship not seen in years. Ever since the first case of the virus was detected in China’s Wuhan, doctors and scientists have been left perplexed, gearing up to create a potential cure. Nonetheless, the nature of the disease and the virus’ ability to mutate at an alarming rate has made the situation even more unpredictable. We have now become familiarized with a lifestyle where leaving home instils fear and social distancing is an unforgettable rule.

Bigger Dangers Ahead

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Another danger is looming on the horizon, even as we are caught in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Climate change is taking place right in front of our eyes- Canada’s heat dome resulting in scorching temperatures, the deadly floods in Western Europe, wildfires spreading in California and the melting glaciers in India’s Himalayan valley are some of the worst climate change events of 2021. We don’t have the time to sit back and wait this out. But we do have the ability to alter our trajectory before it’s too late.

Amid these challenging times, the prime focus is on meeting our immediate needs as we tussle with COVID-19. Consequently, it’s hard to imagine dealing with another crisis. It’s hard to even deliberate on the potential harm climate change will cause to the world. However, our current plight does not make the future climate crisis any less of a danger.

How Different are the Pandemic and the Climate Crisis?

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COVID-19 and climate change, despite being two different challenges, must be seen through a common lens. Both have a global impact and unified efforts are required to reduce the intensity of their impact. Unlike COVID-19, climate change is not unforeseen. The key lessons learnt from the pandemic thereby become crucial in handling the climate crisis.

Adopting a scientific temperament is of supreme importance, be it COVID-19 or climate change. As per CDC and WHO, wearing masks along with frequent hand sanitizing substantially reduces the risk of infection. Eradication of misbeliefs has become essential in countering the rippling effect of the pandemic. For instance, the myths centred around COVID-19 vaccines need to be debunked to ensure an immune global population. Similarly, deploying scientific changes in our daily routines can significantly reduce the impact of climate change. Attempts to generate awareness among the public and promoting the usage of environmentally friendly commodities should be basic but crucial steps in this regard.

Minority Groups and the Underprivileged are most Vulnerable to the Crisis

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“Black US households in 2018 were twice as likely to be food insecure as the national average, with one in five families lacking consistent access to enough food”, reads a BBC report. According to the World Bank, ethnic minorities, households with low income, and migrant workers have suffered twice as much as compared to other categories in India during the pandemic. It is important to realize that those with social, economic, or physical weaknesses will be the hardest hit. In a crisis, a society plagued by socio-economic disparities is more prone to fall apart.

The Way Forward?

Unified Efforts are the need of the hour. People adapted when confronted with the pandemic’s extraordinary social conditions- accepting new working arrangements and personal hardships; reminding us that the human ability for resilience is astonishing. COVID-19 does not respect national boundaries, and neither does climate change. As climate change progresses and our resilience is put to the test, it is evident that we will only be able to survive if we work together. To move the needle ahead, meaningful collaborations and policy efforts are essential.

An Early Call to Action is crucial. A delay in imposing lockdowns fearing a halt in economic activities cost nations millions of lives. Thus, we can not let the course repeat itself for climate change. Quick, swift actions have been observed to flatten the pandemic curve and free up healthcare resources, resulting in decreased fatality rates. Similarly, radical climate change action might lessen resource shortages, mitigate natural disasters, and control sea-level rise.

Strong and Transparent Leadership will take the world ahead. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the value of transparency in establishing confidence. Leaders are experiencing a crisis of trust and are being scrutinized like never before. The denial and delay in adopting required measures to deal with the virus led to gruesome results in Brazil and the USA in the early phase of the pandemic. On the other hand, a more organized response in New Zealand and South Korea saw positive results. This should be used as an important insight while dealing with the climate crisis.

What to Conclude?

Ironically, the virus that caged the human population inside their houses reduced the degree of pollution and improved water quality in several regions of the world during the lockdowns. This has unveiled a harsh reality- the harm that we are causing to the planet can be significantly reduced in a short span of time if only we make the required efforts. Climate change will take its course and it solely relies on us- whether to learn from the past or allow the unfolding of yet another deadly crisis.

The only difference, perhaps, will be that we might never be able to recover from climate collapse.

Click here to read more DU Express Editorials.

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