20 May Transforming our global response to climate change
A recent study by scientists and policy and economic experts at the Imperial College of London believes there are a number of lessons to be learned from the pandemic that could improve our position and response to climate change.
Implemented restrictions and social distancing measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have reduced the number of cases and deaths. Academics have explored how this response to a significant threat could be applied more specifically to our fight against climate change.
One of the key questions that are yet to become clear is whether certain changes we have experienced will continue into the future. Some of the inevitable early responses to the pandemic, such as reduced air travel and the rise of remote working have had considerable short-term impacts. The question is whether certain changes will be embedded further and continue to impact our long term approach towards climate change.
Scientists have also highlighted that the pandemic has proven the importance of not understanding the unknown, the potential scenarios that could emerge, but lack any clear plans or clarity. Experts believe there are a number of quite extreme cases in terms of climate change that are yet to be supported or properly acknowledged by global leaders. In short, the pandemic has provided a clear reminder that it is not enough to predict and then respond, but that we need to be planning and designing our policies to be capable of withstanding potential scenarios in the future.
Designing a coordinated approach toward climate change
Dr. Laure de Preux of the Imperial College Business School believes a coordinated approach is critical in fighting a global crisis and is a similar path of action that needs to be applied to the climate change challenge. Dr. Preux explains that the major events we may face, such as climate change cannot be handled individually, but instead should involve international collaboration. The advantages and benefits of our combined efforts can only be truly effective if they are accepted and integrated on a global scale.
De Preux also highlights a further similarity between the pandemic and climate change, the significant impact it has on the most vulnerable people in our societies. The implemented measures and economic impacts have affected those more with low income or with health conditions. Researchers have indicated that climate change has a higher impact on the most vulnerable. Dr. Preux believes that we need to be implementing measures now to cope with the impacts of climate change, taking a proactive approach towards climate action. The global response to the pandemic has clearly shown how important globally-led scientific cooperation is when dealing with significant challenges. The same applies to the long-term impacts of climate change and how we intend to control emissions and adapt to the short term impacts.
Supporting the transition to cleaner energy
The lockdown measures have clearly had an impact on road transport and electricity production, highlighting our potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Yet, despite the scale of the crisis and the economic severity of the measures, reports suggest that carbon dioxide emissions will only reduce slightly this year. Scientists believe that to really address climate change, we will need to implement a major transition in energy production and make a complete shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.
The pandemic has shown how connected our world is and how it is possible to be working within these conditions and continuing with our lives. Researchers have emphasised that we have the opportunity to collaborate and create an economy that is more sustainable and resilient.
Governments should use this time now to understand and acknowledge how things could be improved and adapted to work towards a more sustainable future. Decision makers need to be focused on rebuilding our economies in a way that makes us all more resilient to other potential situations we may experience in the future.
The focus now is managing the pandemic and reducing the spread but as the measures continue to have an effect and we do emerge from the crisis, it will then be the time to act and ensure government policies and new investments support a cleaner, sustainable and resilient future.