Can the Lessons of the Coronavirus Pandemic Be Applied to Climate Change?

Can the Lessons of the Coronavirus Pandemic Be Applied to Climate Change?
Extremely light traffic moves toward downtown Los Angeles, California, March 20, 2020 (AP photo by Mark J. Terrill).

As the world grapples with COVID-19, it cannot afford to ignore an even more serious global emergency that will persist long after the pandemic has passed: climate change. Last month, the United Nations issued a dire multiagency report warning that the world is “way off track” on its commitments to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement. Without dramatic and sustained emissions reductions, higher atmospheric and marine temperatures will bring more deadly heat waves, catastrophic storms, rising seas, food insecurity, health crises and mass displacement.

Although emissions have dropped sharply since January with the coronavirus pandemic virtually shutting down entire economies and most air travel, they are sure to surge again as the world economy roars back to life whenever the pandemic ends. Antonio Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general, put it bluntly: “We will not fight climate change with a virus.” Indeed, the pandemic will make progress against global warming even more elusive.

Nobody welcomes a pandemic that threatens to kill millions, infect hundreds of millions more and throw the world into economic depression. Still, the dramatic global response to COVID-19 has captured many environmentalists’ imaginations, by showing what a less polluted planet might look like and suggesting how the world might mobilize to fight climate change.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.