3 climate lessons from Covid-19

  1. Suffering sucks. Every person that dies is someone’s loved one, the loss of whom will leave them grieving, possibly needing counselling, or years to digest and reconcile. Loss, pain, tears. Suffering sucks. The numbers of dead are not numbers – they are permanent and negative changes – losses of resources, knowledge, personal and family history, connection and support.
  2. Listen to the warnings. We were warned. We saw it happening in China, spreading out from there. Governments, and people, were slow to react. Instead of listening to the warnings many people believed when they heard someone mumble that it was really just another flu, or that the warnings were overstated. Some used such talk for political leverage.
    We have been warned on climate change. We have not listened.
  3. We have tools, but they are more effective if used early. There is currently less suffering, and more confidence, in places where tools were deployed quickly. Some of those tools have been quarantining, testing, financial and economic measures to support those who respect the request/order not to go to work, ticketing-fines-jail for those who break the rules, and government money into projects that help.
    On the climate front we are late, very late. But, to quote an old english poem, “time still succeeds the former..”
    There are legal, policy, and cultural tools at our disposal. A previous post covered some of the things the Canadian government can do with the Emergencies Act regarding climate change (and there’s another post to come). But some clear examples of legal tools that could be used now regarding climate change, to reduce the impacts, are; financial and economic measures to support transitioning oil and gas workers, and supporting those who are hurt by a transition to a low-carbon economy, ticketing-fines-jail for those who break the rules, and government money into projects that help – solar and wind farms, tidal, geothermal, planting trees, and research and development.
    Some policy options, of many, are leaving oil and gas in the ground – no new projects, and wind down current ones, and completely change how forestry, agriculture and fisheries are conducted to maximise carbon storage.

    Climate change, on the path we are on, is going to cause far greater human suffering than Covid-19. Once the bad part really starts, there will be no turning back, and it will be too late to effectively wield the tools we have. To reduce human suffering we must listen to the warnings and use the tools we have now.

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