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Climate Change Lessons That Should Be Learned From the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

I have been studying the science of global warming with a passion since the late 1970s and earned a degree in Environmental Science in 1992.

There are important lessons that need to be learned from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Certainly, one of the most important lessons is that societies must prepare for crises that science tells us are going to occur at some point in the future, even if they rarely occur or are relatively far off in the future. We need to listen to the scientific experts who have spent their lives studying a problem that plagues mankind, be it future global pandemics or ongoing global warming (climate change), and follow their advice. This includes shifting our spending priorities to prevent and prepare for future pandemics, as well as taking actions to prevent and prepare for the effects of future climate change caused by global warming.

Coronavirus Lockdown In India Greatly Reduced Air Pollution

An interesting side effect of the coronavirus lockdown in India is greatly improved air quality.

An interesting side effect of the coronavirus lockdown in India is greatly improved air quality.

There Was No Excuse for the Failure to Prepare for COVID-19

Serious global virus pandemics rarely occur. The last truly devasting one was the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic. However, a study of history tells us that they do in fact occur, even if quite rare. We have had plenty of virus pandemic scares over the years, including flu pandemics in 1957-1958, 1968, and 2009. There were also limited coronavirus outbreaks in 2002-2004 (SARS) and 2012-2020 (MERS) that raised pandemic concerns but wound up having limited impacts.

Despite what history told us about the reoccurrence of deadly virus pandemics, many countries failed to prepare adequately for the deadly COVID-19 pandemic by failing to stockpile protective equipment and medical devices. Additionally, the international community failed to adequately fund coronavirus vaccine research in the wake of the SARS and MERS outbreaks. Findings from such research, if successful at creating a coronavirus vaccine, could have made the creation of a COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccine easier to achieve, potentially allowing the world to head off the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How Does the COVID-19 Pandemic Apply to the Climate Crisis?

How do the shortcomings associated with preparing for the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic apply to the looming planetary climate crisis caused by global warming? Ignoring scientists’ warnings backed by data and historical precedents, and failing to prepare for future crises does not only apply to future pandemics, but it also applies to other future crises such as the climate crisis. Scientists warn the climate crisis will likely manifest itself with devastating global warming effects at some point in the not too distant future.

Another similarity between these two crises is the natural sense that most humans have that the way things normally are is how they will continue to be in the future. Many wrote off the possibility that the SARS-CoV-2 virus could cause a debilitating global pandemic because it is not something that normally happens. Many have this same misguided sense of normalcy about the global climate and write off the physical reality that it can change dramatically in a short period of time.

The Denial and Acceptance of Science

The threat of a global pandemic due to the introduction of the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus into the human population in Wuhan, China quickly progressed through the “four stages of scientific acceptance” that were put forward by renowned geneticist J. B. S. Haldane in 1963.

  1. This is worthless nonsense.
  2. This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.
  3. This is true, but quite unimportant.
  4. I always said so.

The climate crisis has been progressing through these four stages of scientific acceptance for a number of decades, with some hard-headed souls still clinging to one of the first three stages despite mounting evidence that the Earth is warming and mankind’s emissions from carbon-based fuels are the primary driver of the warming. The vast majority of the world’s community of scientists in relevant fields of study have arrived at stage four regarding the emerging climate crisis. Certainly, when global warming first started to be taken seriously by many in the scientific community in the later 20th century, there were many more scientists in the first three stages.

The Upward Trend In Global Temperatures Continues

A graph of average air temperature in Australia clearly shows the uptrend that started decades ago.

A graph of average air temperature in Australia clearly shows the uptrend that started decades ago.

Lessons From the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic That Can Be Applied to the Climate Crisis

The following are some of the most important lessons we as mankind should learn from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic as it relates to our perception and reaction to the emerging climate crisis.

  • Just because things are “normal,” do not expect things to remain normal in the future. Many were dismissive that COVI-19 would change their normal everyday life until social distancing and shelter-in-place orders changed their lives dramatically. The same could be said of the looming climate crisis. People have the false sense that the climate will always be relatively stable. At some point in the future, they may realize the fallacy of their belief in continued climate normalcy when they can’t go to the beach because the ocean has risen and permanently flooded beach areas or they experience a serious food shortage because farmlands have been turned into deserts by the warming climate.
  • The time to prepare for a crisis is long before its worst effects emerge, not as the crisis reaches a critical stage at which addressing the crisis is far more difficult and expensive, or in some instances impossible to address. Just as we should have prepared for the eventuality that a virus pandemic would someday emerge and devastate humanity, we should be preparing to head off the climate crisis before the worst effects of global warming are felt.
  • Listen to the experts and scientists and ignore politicians and others that are ignorant of the facts or have motivations to present biased views. Some astute medical experts and scientists predicted early on that COVID-19 would eventually become a global pandemic because they understood that a novel virus such as SARS-COV-2 would spread as far and wide as possible until something stopped it from infecting people. At the same time, many politicians either made dismissive statements for political reasons or just did not understand the science of how novel viruses spread. Keep this reality in mind when you assess the plentiful information, predictions, and opinions regarding what scientists are saying will occur in the coming decades and centuries as Earth’s climate reacts to increasing amounts of global warming gases accumulating in the atmosphere.

We Have Been Warned! Places Like Miami Beach Will Be Underwater!

We have been warned by scientists that places like Miami Beach, Florida will be underwater in coming decades unless we address global warming.

We have been warned by scientists that places like Miami Beach, Florida will be underwater in coming decades unless we address global warming.

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Crisis Preparedness Poll

Different Crises: Coronavirus & Climate Change

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 John Coviello


Arthur Russ from England on May 05, 2020:

I agree John, as serious as Covid-19 is, Climate Change is far more serious.

John Coviello (author) from New Jersey on May 05, 2020:

Good to hear from everyone! I'm glad there are others that are taking the climate crisis seriously. This is the mother of all crises. Once it hits full-force, it may be too late to address it adequately.

I think it may take a new generation or two to address this crisis appropriately. Some of those who are hardened skeptics or deniers will never be convinced, even as the evidence mounts year after year.

Arthur Russ from England on May 01, 2020:

Well put, and a great parallel. I frequently argue with Americans on social media (across the pond) on both these topics, so you make some good comparisons which perhaps might help some of those sceptics and deniers to rethink?

Liz Westwood from UK on April 30, 2020:

This is a very interesting and challenging article. The environment has definitely benefited from the reduction in polution. Maybe some practices can change adter this.

Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on April 30, 2020:

The parallels you draw between our climate change crisis and Covid19 are spot on. We have ignored both threats and we are suffering the consequences of both. You are also quite correct that our present measures to deal with Covid have greatly aided the curtailment of both problems. Hopefully all world leaders will take strong notice. I doubt ours will. Great Hub.

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