The coronavirus outbreak has been declared a pandemic. The World Health Organisation announced on Wednesday, 11 March 2020.
The deadly virus is a serious health threat already responsible for over 4 thousand deaths. Health practitioners have warned that things could still escalate.
Climate change issues have been put aside as governments focus their efforts, finances, and resources on fighting this deadly disease that can cripple lives and the economy in just a few days.
The MIT Technology Review article, “Why the coronavirus outbreak is terrible news for climate change”, presents the effect of the virus on climate change. Coronavirus could drain money and political will from climate efforts (Temple, 2020).
Temple (2020) explains the reasons coronavirus could deflect focus from climate change efforts:
- Capital markets could make it hard to get financing for solar, wind and battery projects, and a plunge in oil prices will make electric cars more inaccessible because of their higher price. China, a large manufacturer of green technology, is struggling with supply and declines in production; because of the corona pandemic, public health and the economy will become the immediate concern, and climate change will have to take a back seat.
- Although, there might be some counterbalance to this, according to the article. For instance, the continuous drop in oil prices will make a longer-term investment in clean energy more attractive. Countries may respond to the crisis by using stimulus efforts into clean energy and climate adaptation.
The New York Times article, ” Coronavirus and Climate Change”, says that the dip in oil prices due to coronavirus and the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia won’t affect electric vehicle production because first, electric vehicles sales are regulated, which buffers the impacts of cheap oil, second battery prices are falling rapidly which means it’s becoming competitive with the conventional cars.
Colin McKerracher of Bloomberg New Energy Finance added that automakers would not likely change their long-term plans due to oil price fluctuations, and electrification is here to stay (Plummer, 2020).
Even people who would want to take advantage of cheap oil by travelling won’t be able to because of the coronavirus (Plummer, 2020).
Coronavirus pandemic could derail climate talks in Glasgow
Worland, J. (2020) writes that the coronavirus pandemic could derail the Paris Agreement conference scheduled in Glasgow in November. It has already disrupted prior meetings leading to the climate change conference (Worland, 2020).
The Glasgow Conference is crucial because countries are supposed to announce new pledges to reduce emissions this year. If countries fail to do this, it could affect climate change targets and efforts. In other words, countries will neglect climate efforts and continue burning fossil fuels to restart the economy (Worland, 2020).
The biggest concern here is how policymakers respond to the economic slowdown. For example, China could revive its economy by subsidizing polluting industries like cement and steel, which could soar emissions. Or governments could remove fossil fuel subsidies because of low oil prices or raise taxes on CO2 emissions, or an opportunity to invest in low carbon technology like wind and solar as this could be a safer investment in a world of fluctuating oil prices, the article says (Plummer, 2020).
Let us help one another
Pandemics, as with any other crisis, would often shift our focus on more pressing concerns like public health and safety. But like many crises that have happened in the past, such as wars, economic depressions, and disease outbreak, things would slowly get back to normal as soon as it is over or contained.
Some governments have put lockdowns in place nationally or regionally could also be a chance to reboot, rearrange priorities, and ponder how to proceed forward.
Though the pandemic may delay climate change actions, it should not affect the right choices for the environment. It should encourage governments to be resolute in investing in cleaner and renewable energy as one of the ways forward.
Hopefully, China (and other countries) would invest and transition more into low-carbon technology as this can have far-reaching results, as seen in the drastic reduction of China’s emissions during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak within just a matter of weeks.
Meanwhile, every one of us has a battle to be fought and won through our cooperating with our respective government’s anti-Covid-19 policies. Take care and follow diligently all precautionary measures to avoid the coronavirus.
Please be reminded that our zeal and commitment towards climate change adaptation and mitigation should never supersede our role to help one another in times of crisis, such as in this coronavirus pandemic.
Temple, J. (2020, March 9). Why the coronavirus outbreak is terrible news for climate change. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615338/coronavirus-emissions-climate-change/
Plumer, B. (2020, March 11). Coronavirus and Climate Change. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/climate/nyt-climate-newsletter-coronavirus.html
Worland, J. (2020, March 10). How Coronavirus Could Set Back the Fight Against Climate Change. Time. Retrieved from https://time.com/5795150/coronavirus-climate-change/