Coronavirus Measures Benefit the Planet

 
Michelle Carr, State Director, Illinois, The Nature Conservancy
Updated 3/26/2020 8:12 AM

Individuals and communities across the globe are taking drastic measures to protect themselves and slow the spread of coronavirus. Sheltering at home, significantly reducing air travel, removing cars from the road, and working remotely on a global scale are not only helping contain the spread of the virus, but also healing the planet by significantly reducing carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

The threat of coronavirus is immediate and deadly and, as we have seen, climate change has also caused loss of life, homes, businesses and much more. Some scientific models predict climate change-related deaths of up to 250,000 per year globally within the next couple of decades if climate change continues on its current trajectory.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This is a watershed moment for our nation and world community, not only in how we respond to pandemic threats, but for what we can do together to alter the course of climate change. The global scale of our concentrated behavioral shifts right now is unprecedented -- and the results of these efforts are healing our planet.

Scientists who study air pollution are documenting substantial, immediate improvements in air quality across cities and nations like China and Italy that have decreased travel and factory production. Reports of water quality in Venice and elsewhere are also drastically improved.

The pandemic teaches us important lessons about how our nations can coordinate efforts, and how we can all take personal responsibility to change our behaviors so that we protect the health of our families and communities. The actions we take today are profound, and the benefits of them may be more significant to the health of our communities in the future than is immediately evident.

What will the "new normal" look like when the viral threat passes? Nobody can say for sure, but many believe "normal" will be very different in the year ahead than it was a month ago. Businesses that have shifted operations to remote work may come through this pandemic with a different operating model that requires less travel to and from an office. Behavioral changes we can make to reduce our carbon emissions that may have seemed too daunting a month ago may feel much more reasonable a month from now.

We are all learning what is possible and what we can achieve through collaboration. If our "new normal" includes efforts to reduce our carbon emissions globally at even a fraction of the rate of today, just imagine what we could achieve to change the trajectory of climate change and ensure a healthier future for all.

If we start to see climate change as the global health threat that it is, and treat it with the seriousness of a viral threat, we can reverse the damage and protect the health of future generations.

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