In just a few months, the Coronavirus has fundamentally changed the modern world. Entire nations have been shut down to all but the most essential services. Schools, businesses, and other public spaces are now ghost towns. This has all been part of the strategy to keep the Coronavirus from spreading wider and threatening endangered populations.
Well, what if we responded to the climate crisis in the same way?
“We’ve seen that governments can act, and people can change their behavior, in a very short amount of time,” says May Boeve, executive director of the climate advocacy group 350.org. “And that’s exactly what the climate movement has been asking governments and people to do for years in the face of a different kind of threat—the climate crisis—and we don’t see commensurate action. On the one hand, it shows that it’s possible to do this, and it’s possible for this kind of mobilization of resources to take place in a short amount of time. In that sense, that’s encouraging. But we were never in doubt of that aspect.”
“Climate change also affects the most vulnerable first and worst,” says Boeve. “So we see that pattern play out as well, and how this is unfolding and how the response is and is not responding to that inequity and impact.”
The climate crisis has already taken lives in the most vulnerable populations in the world. Violent storms, extreme heat waves, and other fallout from the damage done to our environment has caused deaths around the world. If the governments treated the climate crisis in the same way they've treated the Coronavirus then they would find the budget to build the infrastructure necessary to wean our world off fossil fuels.
“We probably wouldn’t still have an oil and coal and gas industry that was thriving in our economy,” says Boeve. We would have to find ways to support the workers from those industries, as well.
“It’s a whole bunch of different things, which could all happen quite quickly, because we do actually know what needs to happen,” she says. “And that’s the amazing thing. But the shift in which, and this is what’s so interesting about what’s unfolding with a public health emergency is that I think there’s a trust in the public health community to say, these are the measures we need you to put in place right now. They’re ready to go and policymakers are acting. And the same thing is true with climate change. We’ve got those policies, they’ve been drafted. They’ve been waiting to be enacted.”