Friday, April 24, 2020

The Pandemic Should be a Call to Action on Climate Change

Clear skies over Istanbul with mountains visible.
The Covid-19 pandemic should be a wake up call that some things know no national borders, including climate change.  In addition, travel bans, economic slowdown and greatly reduced use of automobiles has made the impact of human activity on climate obvious as smog and air pollution and water pollution has been reduce to yield clear skies and clear water not seen in some areas in years.  Yet while this stark reminder is before us, the Trump/Pence regime - which so bungled the pandemic response - continues to wage war against clean air and clean water regulations and is loosening offshore oil drilling regulations, refusing to believe in science and pandering to special interest political donors. It's an insane strategy, but then so is the occupant of the White House who unbelievably suggested that humans be injected with (or ingest) lethal disinfectants  to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.  Adding to reasons to fear climate change is the potential release of pathogens long frozen in permafrost and warmer temperatures that will allow some diseases to spread to regions where they have heretofore not been a problem.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at what should be a wake up call but which is being ignored by the Trump regime and many on the lunatic far right.  Here are excerpts:
Travel bans and lockdowns have cleaned the globe, flushing the murk from Venice’s canals, clearing Delhi’s polluted smog, making distant snowy peaks visible for the first time in years from the shores of the Bosporus.

U.S. scientists still predict 2020 will be the hottest year on record, even as experts forecast the largest annual drop in carbon emissions in modern history — a direct consequence of the pandemic’s freeze on human activity, trade and travel. The crisis isn’t uniformly good news for the planet: For example, satellite data shows that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is at its fastest pace in years, with environmental officials otherwise sidelined or preoccupied by the outbreak.
The pandemic is not just a reminder of the human impact on the environment, including the significance of man-made emissions on global warming and air pollution. It’s also similar: an imperceptible menace that knows no borders, overwhelms aging infrastructure and bedevils policymakers and politicians who struggle to grapple with the scale of the threat.

“A good way to think about the coronavirus pandemic is that it is like climate change at warp speed. What takes decades and centuries for the climate takes days or weeks for a contagious disease,” New York University climate economist Gernot Wagner wrote last month. “That speed focuses the mind and offers lessons in how to think about risk in an interconnected world.”
In the Boston Globe, former U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry pointed to evidence suggesting climate change could be a “threat multiplier” for zoonotic and pandemic diseases. He also took aim at President Trump and other politicians who cling to positions outside the scientific consensus and impede collective action.
“Just as in today’s pandemic, progress has been halted by finger-pointing, denial, replacing real science with junk science, misinformation, and flat-out lies, elevating political hacks instead of scientists and experts, refusal to work with allies and even adversaries, and leaving states and cities to fend for themselves,” wrote Kerry.
“The coronavirus pandemic has delivered sharp and painful reminders of our collective vulnerability and the value of paying very close attention to reality,” wrote physicist Mark Buchanan. “If there’s any good to come out of the current tragedy, it may be in helping to persuade a few people to help tip the scales and get our leaders to take the next looming issue much more seriously.” The Trump administration isn’t quite set on tipping the scales. Stimulus money the White House has been empowered to spend in the pandemic’s aftermath may go to U.S. fossil fuel companies that were already in financial trouble before the crisis.
 But away from the White House, others are seeking to take the lead. Under the aegis of the World Economic Forum, major financial firms — including some that may help manage elements of the federal response to the pandemic — have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Campaigners are calling for government stimulus to fund sustainable development projects that could build the green economy. The World Bank is proposing linking governments’ post-pandemic spending to greener infrastructure projects and future disaster-proofing. “We all breathe the same air and we’re all going to live with the same rising seas,” Michael Chertoff, a former head of the Department of Homeland Security in the George W. Bush administration, told Today’s WorldView during a webinar this week. “And whatever we may disagree about some things, we’re going to need to sit down with them and our like-minded allies and everybody else and figure out what can we do collectively to protect the global commons against either pandemic diseases or disastrous climate change.” But, as Slate’s Joshua Keating noted, the opposite may well be true . . . . some right-wing parties elsewhere in the West have already seized on the threat of climate change not as a call for collective action, but as a justification for limiting migration and unraveling globalization. “It’s not hard to imagine a future U.S. administration, rather than denying the increasingly obvious reality of climate change, using it to argue that the country needs tougher immigration controls and fewer refugees,” wrote Keating. “The alternative, they will argue, is to be overwhelmed by the human invaders and see our own natural resources depleted in the way other countries already have.”

Insanely, limiting immigration will not halt warming temperatures and rising sea levels.  All it does is play to the hate and bigotry that are hallmarks of the political right in today's America.

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