What would happen if the world reacted to climate change like it’s reacting to the coronavirus?
The coronavirus has transformed everyday life so significantly that the effects are already visible from space. In China, where hundreds of millions of people were quarantined to help stop the spread of the disease, before-and-after satellite photos show pollution disappearing as work came to a standstill. In the U.S., as the number of coronavirus cases has grown quickly, companies are asking employees to work from home and canceling conferences. Schools are canceling classes. In Italy, another massive quarantine is underway.
The changes have been sudden, driven by widespread recognition that it’s a public health emergency—and, although the window of opportunity may have already closed, a chance to prevent another deadly disease like the flu from becoming a permanent, ongoing problem.
The scale of the response raises another question: What would it look like if the world responded to the climate crisis with a similar sense of urgency? The coronavirus response might not have been as fast as it should have been; if the Chinese government had acted faster, the virus might not have spread to other countries. And the Chinese government’s authoritarian tactics shouldn’t—and couldn’t—be emulated in large parts of the rest of the world. But in countries around the world, governments and citizens have been quick to change daily habits. The same hasn’t happened for the climate crisis.
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Words by Adele Peters