As the two biggest existential threats to humanity, pandemics like COVID-19 and climate change have a lot in common. From governments having initially covered up the danger to the reasons we are stuck in both these crises, there is much to unravel. Starting with the lesser known details, let’s go through what COVID-19 and climate change have in common.
1. In a move which would be followed by numerous other governments around the world, the Chinese government managing the pandemic initially chose to publicly deny the severity of COVID-19. China even went as far as to punish scientists who spoke out early during the outbreak happening in Wuhan. President Trump, who also initially denied the threat of COVID-19, has relentlessly denied climate change. Climate change, of course, has decades of politicians ignoring the warnings from the scientific community.
2. Perhaps the most unconventional thing that COVID-19 and climate change have in common is that they both seem to share a mutual—but faulty—off switch. Both can be fought by shutting down the economy. The measure of closing businesses to flatten the COVID-19 curve around the world has been met with mixed results. The same results can be seen in how the economic recession of 2008 and the government’s response to the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 saw a slowdown in the emissions of greenhouse gases.
Now that governments all around the world have exercised the power to shut down whole economies for COVID-19, it brings up the question of whether they will do the same again to stop the worst effects of climate change. That hypothetical is a worthy discussion of its own right, but I suspect (should it ever occur) that the public will not fully embrace the restrictions and the results will not provide everything we hope for.
3. Which leads me to the next point: we are all in this together with solutions that can only be achieved if we all work collectively. We know that COVID-19 is extremely dangerous to our lives and economy. Whenever we get a vaccine, it is important that the world works together to mass produce and distribute it so people across all communities, states and other countries get access to it.
Why? Because if we leave hotbeds of the virus to fester without access to a vaccine, the virus will only endure and continue to spread without end. A policy stopping short of reaching out to all people in need results in COVID-19 having the freedom to travel back into our lives.
The same is true of climate change and getting people access to clean, renewable energy. We need to mass produce and distribute technologies that do not release greenhouse gases. The consequences of not reaching carbon neutrality and allowing climate change to destroy this planet will not remain confined to one singular area or people. None of us are without responsibility when it comes to releasing greenhouse gases and thus it is imperative that we each find ways to do our part.
4. The same is true of climate change and getting people access to clean, renewable energy. We need to mass produce and distribute technologies that do not release greenhouse gases. The consequences of not reaching carbon neutrality and allowing climate change to destroy this planet will not remain confined to one singular area or people. None of us are without responsibility when it comes to releasing greenhouse gases and thus it is imperative that we each find ways to do our part.
It is too late to put COVID-19 back in a magic bottle and a person could blame a wet market in Wuhan, China, as responsible. I have no problem with that and I sincerely hope wet markets are banned forever because of the incredible losses people have suffered. I find myself asking, though, what more can I do to stop devastation like this from ever happening again?
America’s animal agriculture system has become a breeding ground for emerging antibiotic-resistant bacteria and could be the source of the next global pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, 80% of antibiotics we use today go to farm animals and end up helping create these superbugs. Research has also shown that animal agriculture is among the leading causes of climate change. Should more people continue to embrace plant-based diets, we could simultaneously limit threats that cause both climate change and pandemics.
5. The final thing that COVID-19 and climate change have in common is that they are both invisible threats that poise very real dangers. Both may not always appear present before our eyes, but we cannot ignore they are there. If we continue to ignore the subtle warning signs, we choose not only to jeopardize ourselves but those around us we care for.