NYT’s ‘climate correspondent’ features professor claiming coronavirus is ‘climate change on warp speed’


By: - Climate DepotMarch 12, 2020 3:22 PM with 0 comments

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/12/climate/climate-change-coronavirus-lessons.html

What Climate Change Can Teach Us About Fighting the Coronavirus

By Somini Sengupta – NYT’s international climate correspondent.

“Alarming levels of inaction.” That is what the World Health Organization said Wednesday about the global response to coronavirus.

It is a familiar refrain to anyone who works on climate change, and it is why global efforts to slow down warming offer a cautionary tale for the effort to slow down the pandemic.

“Both demand early aggressive action to minimize loss,” said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology who was teaching classes remotely this week. “Only in hindsight will we really understand what we gambled on and what we lost by not acting early enough.”

Scientists like Dr. Cobb have, for years, urged world leaders to bend the curve of planet-warming emissions. Instead, emissions have raced upward. Now the consequences are being felt: a three-month-long flood in the Florida Keyswildfires across a record hot and dry Australia, deadly heat waves in Europe.

Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University, called the virus “climate change on warp speed.”

Why have we not taken climate risks to heart? Politics and psychology play a role.

Change is hard when there’s a powerful industry blocking it. The fossil fuel industry has pushed climate science denial into the public consciousness.

Then, there’s human psychology. As with climate change, our collective ability to confront the pandemic is shaped by our brains. We are bad at thinking about tomorrow. Elke Weber, a behavioral scientist at Princeton University, said that makes climate science, which deals in future probabilities, “hard to process and hard for us to be afraid of.”

“We are evolutionarily wired for taking care of the here and now,” Dr. Weber said. “We are bad at these decisions that require planning for the future.”

We are not told to do the climate equivalent of coughing into our elbows. We are not discouraged from flying. Instead, sales of sports utility vehicles soar. The Amazon burns so more soy and cattle can be produced.

This was to be a crucial year for global climate goals, with presidents and prime ministers under pressure to get more ambitious about reining in greenhouse gas emissions when they gather for United Nations-led climate talks in Glasgow in November. The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, has leaned on world leaders to announce more ambitious targets and to end what he called “vast and wasteful subsidies for fossil fuels.”

In a speech this week, Mr. Guterres hinted at another deficit faced by both the health and climate crises.

“In the months ahead, we need to rebuild trust,” he said. “We need to demonstrate that international cooperation is the only way to deliver meaningful results.”

Somini Sengupta is an international climate correspondent. She has also covered the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia for The Times and received the 2003 George Polk Award for her work in Congo, Liberia and other conflict zones. @SominiSengupta  Facebook