Do you feel a moral obligation to care for our home planet? If so, the desire to leave clean air and water for the next generation may mean meatless Mondays, shorter showers, and public forms of transportation. It means staying well informed on greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuels, and rising sea levels so you can use your dollar and your vote to make a difference and show your support for Mother Earth.
And you’ve probably considered the effects of COVID-19 on climate change to some extent. There are three climate change trends you ought to know that COVID-19 has brought into clearer focus. Understanding the unexpected connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change will help you use your influence as a leader to inspire action at home, at the office, and in your community.
Trend #1: COVID-19 Lockdowns Had Less of an Impact on Climate Change Than Expected
Do you recall the good news? It was summer 2020 when megacities like Bangkok, Beijing, Delhi, and Los Angeles started to see air pollution levels plummet. Wildlife was spotted amongst city streets and waterways typically overrun by transportation. With good reason, you might have wondered..is climate change getting better?
During the “anthropause,” a term coined to describe the sudden, drastic pause in human activity due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, there was hope for a silver lining. Could we reverse the long-term effects of climate change by changing our behavior? It looked promising.
Unfortunately, while global CO2 emissions fell 7% in 2020, new research shows COVID-19’s impact on climate change is largely insignificant. Even though greenhouse gas emissions plummeted during lockdowns, concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere continued to rise. May 2020 saw the highest amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in four million years at 417 parts per million.
According to climate modeling calculations, COVID-19 will result in global temperatures being less than 0.01°F cooler in 2030 compared to projections based on current international emissions pledges. That’s not much to get excited about. What it means is current pledges aren’t sufficient. It’s time for drastic action.
Trend #2: Climate Change Could Be to Blame for COVID-19… and Future Pandemics
While the exact origin is still unknown, you probably know bats are likely the source of the coronavirus. What you might not realize is that climate change may be to blame for a massive migration of bats into Southeast Asia, leading to the evolution or transmission of the virus. What’s more, there’s potential for rising temperatures to catalyze unprecedented wildlife migrations into new territories, which could trigger future pandemics.
The long-term effects of climate change, such as increased greenhouse gas and hotter temperatures, affect how all of Earth’s species relate to one another. Vegetation changes to adapt to rising heat and sunlight. As a result, entire regions transform into new habitats. Animals running from inhospitable heat and diminishing food sources gather in these new forests and savannas. The intermingling of species that have remained separated for millennia, or have never crossed paths, leads to the transmission of pathogens to novel hosts. What this means for humans is that the risk of contact with new infections increases exponentially. Human immune systems aren’t developed enough to handle this influx of new zoonotic diseases (infections that spread between people and animals).
Trend #3: People and Nations are Realizing That No One Can Escape Climate Change
The United Nations Climate Summit, COP26, is scheduled for November 2021. Its purpose…Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change. You may recall that the major goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit a global temperature increase to 1.5°C versus 2.0°C, preventing devastating physical and economic consequences.
To succeed, every industrial nation must decrease carbon emissions by 50% in the next nine years. But that’s not all. By 2050, these nations must reach net-zero emissions. Pledges ahead of the Glasgow conference fall more than short with projections estimating only a 1% decrease by 2030.
And even if pledges are met, there’s still only about a 5% chance we’ll meet the 1.5°C goal.
If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that all life on this planet is connected, and climate change affects us all. There are no closing borders to the long-term effects of climate change. The climate-impacting actions of one nation have an effect on all.
What You Can Do in the Post-COVID-19 World to Make a Difference in the Climate Change Pandemic
Comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change may seem far-fetched, but the consequences are the same. Human life and way of life are at risk. So what can you do to make a difference?
Start by speaking up and sharing the research. From there, consider creating your own pledge to cut your personal carbon footprint in half by 2030. By taking responsibility and setting the example, we show one another, and future generations, that we’re in this together.
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