Turning the coronavirus crisis into an opportunity – analysis
The planet is in intensive care, and a pandemic has been possible to remove us from our inertia. One of the largest economies in the world, China, stopped when the coronavirus was detected. To date, it has affected more than 100,000 people in more than 100 countries. Incidentally, the disease was thought to have been transmitted to humans through bats and pangolins, although more research into its origins is still needed.
But the virus is more than just a health crisis. It is symptomatic of everything we have unleashed on our planet in the name of development. As we corrected the course to combat the coronavirus, even the short-term measures that have been put in place to contain the virus have helped improve the condition of the planet. A recent report by Carbon Tracker, a London-based nonprofit group of experts investigating the impact of the climate crisis on financial markets, said China avoided a quarter or more of its CO2 emissions in two weeks by stopping Work in manufacturing units and construction sites to quarantine their workers. These restrictions led to fewer vehicles on the road, and air travel was reduced by 70%. The images of the European Space Agency and NASA showed a fall in pollutants such as nitrogen oxide that lead to respiratory diseases, asthma and respiratory problems.
Another decision made by the Chinese authorities could have far-reaching implications for the planet. Since the coronavirus is believed to have originated from a wildlife food market, authorities have banned the consumption of wildlife meat. Mass repression has begun in wildlife farms and breeding centers. This could help the conservation of a number of species, in particular the pangolin that was on the verge of extinction. Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy, and its scales are used in traditional medicine. However, experts are skeptical about whether the ban on wildlife trade will be permanent and if the restrictions will also apply to traditional Chinese medicine.
Are these measures too little, too late? In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5 ° C had said that any warming of 1.5 ° C is not considered “safe” for most nations, communities, ecosystems and sectors, and poses significant risks to natural and human systems. The same report added: “The main vectors for dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika virus are projected to increase in number, with a greater geographical range for the 2030s than at present, which it could put more individuals at risk of the diseases they transmit, with regional differences. “And, prophetically, the report stated that incidents of zoonotic diseases will grow.
It has taken a disease in a small province in China to stop the world. But if we continue to treat this as just a “health crisis,” we are signing up for more pandemics. Amazon fires and Australian wildfires are symptomatic of our climate inertia. And yet, a state of crisis could give us opportunities to heal the planet. Reduced emissions, even if they are temporary, mean that a much smaller number of people are exposed to air pollution, and serve as an example that significant policy changes aimed at decarbonizing our economies could help improve lives. Can we use the coronavirus epidemic as an opportunity to decarbonize our economy and get us out of our inertia to respond to the climate crisis? We can reduce fossil fuel consumption and air travel, and ban wildlife trade to save us from pandemics and also help the planet heal.
Bahar Dutt is an award-winning environmental journalist and author of Rewilding, India’s experiments in saving nature..
The opinions expressed are personal.