It has been more than two months since the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and it is nearly impossible to go five minutes without hearing about it on the news. At the same time, climate change has been an imminent problem for decades, but is rarely addressed by the mainstream media. Why is this occurring?
Humans are one of the best species at problem solving, exemplified by the politicians and scientists around the world working hard to tackle COVID-19. Because the disease poses an urgent and immediate danger, the mobilization to minimize the scale of the outbreak has been incredibly rapid.
And yet, little progress has been made to slow climate change. The consequences of our changing climate may seem very distant, both in location and in time, reducing its urgency. We can go about our everyday lives without noticing any major effects while polar glaciers continue to melt. However, once the countless problems imposed by climate change reach the current severity of COVID-19, it will be too late to mend them.
With Earth’s average surface temperature projected to continue its rapid rise, outbreaks of infectious disease, e.g., COVID-19, are also expected to increase. As animals lose their natural habitats, they travel closer to humans. Cities are already highly packed with people. The increased proximity between animals and between other humans makes it easier for diseases to spread. As a result, we will see even more infectious disease outbreaks in the future if the climate emergency is not addressed.
A major cause of climate change is the carbon dioxide from human activities, which traps heat in our atmosphere. With COVID-19 ravaging China, flights, refineries, and factories have been shut down. Therefore, China’s carbon dioxide emissions have declined
by 25% in the last three weeks. Since China is the world’s greatest emitter of carbon dioxide, this statistic should be exciting, right? After all, this decrease in carbon dioxide is equal to the New York state’s annual emissions.
However, the decline in emissions is only temporary. Environmental goals are often overlooked when economic matters are on the line, so the emissions are likely to resume, if not increase, once the outbreak subsides.
While the situation with COVID-19 continues to develop, we can introduce or continue to make environmentally conscious choices in our day-to-day lives. We can make purchases from local farmers' markets in Dublin, Pleasanton, and Livermore. We can consume fewer single-use items, such as plastic Ziploc bags, Saran Wrap, and paper towels. We can use reusable shopping bags, containers, coffee cups, and utensils. The list goes on, but all in all, consider choosing sustainable alternatives when living your everyday life. In the moment, it may seem slightly more difficult to select the environmentally friendly option, but you are making things easier in the long run.
Continue following disease-prevention protocols by frequently washing your hands, avoid touching your face, and cover all sneezes and coughs, but also make sustainable choices and be aware of your environmental impact before it is too late to reverse climate change.