Chris White Tech Reporter
March 19, 2020 12:50 PM ET
Environmentalists and activists say they’ve found a way to better sell climate change to a skeptical American public: paint global warming as a pandemic on par with the likes of coronavirus.
Environmentalists are pointing to drastic dips in carbon emissions in China and Europe during the coronavirus scourge to craft a new climate message. They also suggest that there are some positive lessons to be learned from the virus, which has killed more than 8,000 people globally.
“If we can think about how to prepare for climate change like a pandemic, maybe there will be a positive outcome to all of this,” Christopher Jones, an environmental researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, told NBC News in a report published Wednesday.
He added: “We can help prevent crises in the future if we are prepared. I think there are some big-picture lessons here that could be very useful.” (RELATED: Environmental Activists Are Blocking The Clean-Up Of A Polluted Mining Site In Idaho)
NBC News’s report cited a March 13 Washington Post report that analyzed data from one of the European Space Agency’s satellites that seemed to suggest that nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, fell dramatically over Northern Italy, a portion of Europe that has been the most negatively impacted.
More than 1,800 people who were exposed to the virus have died in Italy over the last several weeks as the country has seen nearly 25,000 cases overall. Nearly 430 people died in the country in one day after contracting coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China in November 2019.
Other academics are offering similar critiques.
“As we move to restart these economies, we need to use this moment to think about what we value,” Jacqueline Klopp, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University in New York City, told NBC.
“Do we want to go back to the status quo,” she rhetorically asked before adding: “or do we want to tackle these big structural problems and restructure our economy and reduce emissions and pollution?”
One environmentalist journalist pointed out that China’s draconian crackdown is creating the most benefits.
“Every cloud has a silver lining,” John Gibbons, an environmental journalist and commentator, said during a Thursday episode of NewsTalk.
The air quality improved “dramatically” over China during the past few months thanks in part to Beijing’s move to idle industries, he added.
The reasons why the public is handling the pandemic differently than, say, climate change is because one is happening over decades while the other is an immediate concern, according to Craig Altemose, the executive director of Better Future Project, a group pushing climate change policy.
“The international response to COVID-19 stands in stark contrast to our slow, half-hearted response to the climate crisis,” Altemose wrote Wednesday in an editorial for the Boston Globe. The reasons are obvious, he added: “COVID-19 is a crisis playing out over the course of days rather than decades.”