The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Climate...

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Climate Crisis

by Anthony Teles
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

COVID-19 has dominated the headlines. Story after story, from the promising to the frightening, have revolved around the pandemic. Nonetheless, this is still the same world from mere months ago. Many of the same problems and opportunities remain. As huge a matter COVID-19 is, the climate crisis is still the biggest long-term problem facing humanity. The pandemic has had a positive short-term impact on the environment and offers promise for the long-term. At the same time, it is a reminder of the daunting challenges we face.

Since the shutdowns and social distancing measures began, there has been less activity and a decrease in carbon emissions. This includes everything from driving to flights, and shopping to working away at an office. But circumstances have suddenly changed. The air has been measurably cleaner. When California starting implementing its measures, there were noticeable drops in nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere within just weeks. Satellite data has also demonstrated reduced pollution across China after the economic shutdown. It is clear that human activity has drastic impacts on the planet, and that we are capable of scaling back and changing our ways.

The human impact on the environment is large and long-lasting. Concentrations of carbon dioxide were at 413 ppm (parts per million) in 2019. A year later, despite the shutdowns of the pandemic, they have increased to 416 ppm. The positive impacts are temporary and could quickly disappear once the COVID-19 measures are ended. As renowned Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki noted, “the COVID crisis is a crisis for human beings, but the climate crisis is a crisis for life on the planet.”

As difficult as it can be during a time like this, it is important to think long-term. As our economies come back to life after this pandemic, it is crucial that there be an ambitious global framework put in place to tackle the climate crisis. The UN’s annual climate summit was set to take place in November 2020 but has been delayed. The countries in the Paris Agreement were to meet to introduce stronger goals in emission reductions. These goals currently come up far short, and it is essential that the world not fall further behind. Meanwhile, The European Union has been pressured to put a hold on important initiatives such as a carbon trading program and emissions-cutting deadlines. China has already implemented postponements on similar measures. These are delays that the planet cannot afford.

There is plenty of hope. The measures taken to address the economic problems of the pandemic must help speed up the shift to cleaner energy sources. Economic stimulus programs around the world must focus on these investments. Bailouts for the financial industry must require banks to invest less money in fossil fuels. This is an opportunity to greatly advance green packages, more eco-friendly construction projects, cleaner transportation, and more. This will not happen naturally. We have to fight and push for our politicians to take these bold steps.

The COVID-19 pandemic is indeed a generation-defining event. However, the world is far more complex than a single issue. This is a very short-term problem in comparison to the climate crisis. We must take this time to reconsider how we treat wildlife, what we put into the atmosphere, and how we are preparing for the future. Humanity will beat this pandemic. We now have the opportunity to take what we have learned and transform our future. We can finally properly address the climate crisis, by giving it the same urgency and action as we have done for COVID-19.


Baker, Rochelle. “David Suzuki on applying COVID-19’s lessons to climate change.” Canada’s National Observer. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/04/17/news/david-suzuki-applying-covid-19s-lessons-climate-change

Chavez, Luciana Tellez, and Daniel Wilkinson. “How Covid-19 Could Impact the Climate Crisis.” Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/16/how-covid-19-could-impact-climate-crisis

Tenenbaum, Laura. “Sorry, Climate Change Hasn’t Gone Away Just Because of COVID-19.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lauratenenbaum/2020/04/06/sorry-climate-change-hasnt-gone-away-just-because-of-covid-19/#6eb6d8904e7b

UN News. “First Person: COVID-19 is not a silver lining for the climate, says UN Environmental chief.” https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061082

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