Despite the scale of the damage to the global economy and the price of social isolation from the Coronavirus pandemic, there are positives to take relating to the climate crisis we face. Although the upcoming World Climate Conference (COP26) may be canceled or postponed, because of the Coronavirus, there are some insights to point out.
First, GHG emissions reduction. Until a few months ago, it was difficult to imagine a world without oil. But oil demand has dropped sharply as a result of the crisis. The world is going to use less energy this year for production and transportation. This will significantly hurt oil-based economies, but also reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. NASA’s satellite imagery already indicates a 30% reduction in air pollution in China.
Second, the expansion of virtual life. The need for isolation forces us to adopt behavior in the virtual world. Cafes, restaurants, shopping malls and movie theaters are no longer accessible spaces. Many meetings are held on Skype and Zoom. Many employees work from home. Universities have moved on to study online. This is an irreversible opportunity to become acquainted with the virtual world and adopt a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Some of these changes will not be reversed as soon as the crisis is over.
Third, changing consumption habits. The crisis in manufacturing and world trade is evident worldwide. The guidelines for residents are also to reduce staying in stores to minimize the potential for infection. The economic crisis and the current situation will diminish our purchasing power and we will have to get used to consuming less. It is widely believed that household consumption accounts for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is a significant change, which has the potential to remain even after the epidemic and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Forth, strengthening Global Solidarity. The outbreak of the virus in China has quickly become a major challenge for many governments around the world, regardless of their economic, military and political power. The Coronavirus has indicated that dealing with a global crisis requires cooperation between countries and the decisions made in each territory have wider global influence. This insight is important to the climate crisis, and today it has become part of the consensus.
Fifth, growing support for scientific knowledge. The Corona crisis presents an opportunity for the scientific community to regain public confidence in the era of Fake News. Countries whose leaders have ignored scientists’ warnings about the Coronavirus in the early stages of the outbreak are paying the price today. The current crisis has strengthened the public’s understanding, which is also important to climate scientists, that politics should follow scientific knowledge, and not vice versa.
Sixth, importance of civic engagement. The Coronavirus demonstrates that governments cannot cope with global threats on their own, and the experts emphasize the importance of the public’s effort and support by changing daily behaviors. Civilian responsibility is also needed to fight climate change.
Finally, the limitations of forecasts. Above all, the Coronavirus has revealed our collective ignorance of the Earth’s future. While we were worried about wars, terrorism and nuclear armament, in fact what struck the world order was an unexpected pandemic. The entire world was unaware of its extreme vulnerability. The Coronavirus and its damage to the world economy inevitably overshadow climate change discussions for a while. But this common enemy we now face also has the potential to help fight climate change. Recognizing our shared experience, civic solidarity and collective change, there will be much room for optimism.
**The review was written by Adv. Dr. Tzipi Iser Itsiq, Partner and Head of the Environmental Protection, Cleantech and Clean Energy Department, Lipa Meir & Co.
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