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COVID-19 & The Climate Crisis - Lessons Going Unlearned

posted 6 Apr 2020, 03:49 by ECRN ECRN   [ updated 7 Apr 2020, 04:07 ]
This piece represents one of a range of point of views on the implications of the ongoing pandemic for climate activism. It does not purport to be a definitive assessment of the situation.

The enormous societal, political and economic changes triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic have aroused cautious optimism from some climate activists who, having been advocating change on such a scale in order to address the climate crisis, see some signs of hope in civilisation's capacity for adaptability. However, while these changes have received understandable attention, equally significant are the political and business interests pursuing strategies that ignore the need to address both the pandemic and the climate crisis. 

Notable among these examples of stubborn persistence with shortsighted energy strategies is the Estonian government's recent decision to dedicate €125 million to fossil fuel production. Climate expert, Piret Väinsalu  told Climate Action Network Europe: “Much better uses could be found for this money in the current crisis – either in the healthcare sector or to support long-term economic solutions. At the moment, providing a sense of security to oil shale workers with a new oil plant is like trying to build a new hotel for those who are unemployed in the hotel industry.” The decision supposedly stems from a desire to aid the Estonian economy, which is facing a recession because of the ongoing pandemic, but its capacity to do so is limited as it will soon have to be reworked in order to meet the EU's 2050 climate neutrality objectives.

What is all the more frustrating about the pursuit of such reckless energy strategies in an effort to address the economic consequences of COVID-19 is that it flies in the face of expert opinion that disease epidemics could become more frequent and more dangerous as the climate situation further deteriorates. It is estimated that zoonatic diseases (diseases passed from animals to humans) are responsible for 2.5 billion cases of human illness and 2.7 million human deaths worldwide each year (lest we forget, COVID-19 is thought to have originally passed from bats to humans). Further damage to the climate and bio diversity will break down the boundaries between human civilisation and animal habitats. Climate activists must do all they can to publicise the danger of redundant energy strategies in substantially increasing the risk of further pandemics.