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Sustainability in the Time of COVID-19

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

We are in a period of uncertainty, anxiety, and confusion. How do we come together to support each other, stay productive, and stay safe? How do we continue to advance our values of environmental and social justice? How do we make good decisions and not let fear drive us apart from our care for the earth and each other?

Coronavirus and Climate Change

We are seeing an environmental impact from the spread of this virus. Air travel has been vastly reduced. Industries have closed and air quality in these areas has benefitted. At the same time work to address climate, from research to installing clean energy has been negatively impacted. So what should we learn about climate change in understanding this public health emergency?

  1. Earlier action leads to less impact and less cost. Communities that take aggressive action on Coronavirus can “flatten the curve” saving lives and allowing more capacity to tend to those that get sick. This is exactly like climate change, in that if we would have addressed our emissions when we knew of the problem this would not only have reduced the impacts, it would have given us more options in the solutions available to address a changing climate. This chart shows the impacts of delaying action in meeting the 2 degree Celsius target in the Paris Accord, and is a stark reminder of the challenge facing us to avert major climate catastrophe.

  2. A disregard for science leads to poor outcomes. This article in Science is a stark call for decision-makers that listen to scientists on managing infectious disease and include it in their policy-making and public communication. This has been a long-time criticism of inaction on climate change. The science of climate change has been settled for some time and yet policy-makers have been influenced by the politicization and efforts by entrenched entities.

  3. Human psychology has a difficult time dealing with uncertain risk. The challenges and solutions are clearly understood and yet the actions can seem disconnected and far off. Find ways to simplify the issue of climate change and take actions that you can feel confident are making a positive impact. This article has 17 straightforward questions and answers on climate change that can help you get to work. Take control of your understanding of the issue and engage those around you to decrease doubt and increase action.

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