The Coronavirus and Climate Change Emergencies


The coronavirus emergency currently being played out across the globe is a forerunner to the climate emergency. Both emergencies are everywhere and they affect us all now in some way, although the effects of global warming are not so apparent to many. On the other hand the coronavirus threat is immediate whereas the threat of warming – and the necessary action to combat it – has been postponed to some future, indeterminate date by our governments. The latter, of course, is a fallacy and a failure by most of the populous – especially the media and our politicians – to understand climate inertia, self-reinforcing feedback systems and tipping points.

But many things will be the same. Science and evidence will direct the response to the climate emergency too. Although, as with the coronavirus, there will be multiple actions and implementation will vary over time from country to country. And over time the more successful actions will become obvious. Though it is hard to imagine now the political response to the climate emergency will be bipartisan and evidence based decisions will replace misinformation, propaganda and special interests at the heart of adversarial politics.

Likewise in the media the climate emergency will eventually dominate and anti-science statements will come close to approximating treason in a war time situation. Currently with the coronavirus there is some confusion with only a few ‘idiotic’ deniers floating around – predictably Alan Jones and his ilk. Others have changed. The President of the USA has done a 180 degree turn from the coronavirus being a ‘hoax’ to an ‘emergency’ in a matter of weeks. Regrettably this delay will probably be a death sentence for some of his citizens.

But as a result of the delay on action in the climate emergency the death and disruption will be much worse. Unlike the immediacy of action that the coronavirus forces upon us our governments have seen fit to deny, delay or ignore what the science has been saying for more than thirty years. Climate inertia means we have probably already condemned the earth to more than two degrees of warming. The deaths from global warming boosted extreme weather events continue to mount unnoticed and uncounted, and are certainly substantial*. The advice from various experts on tackling the coronavirus has been “go early and go hard”.  With the climate emergency the first option has been lost so we must double down on the second. The global response to the coronavirus shows, and continues to show, that this can be done.

*As an example the extra deaths during the heatwave that preceded the Black Saturday bushfires in SE Australia was 372.