This has been the most topical issue recently, since Covid-19 disease caused by Corona virus has affected the whole world and has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020.
So, what is the role of climate change in the rapid spread of this virus? How will the outbreak affect the climate crisis? In this article, we have compiled the statements of experts on this topic.
The correlation between climate change and the spread of pathogens
First, let's talk about the role that climate change plays in the emergence of the virus. According to Harvard University Center of Climate, Health and Global Environment Director Dr. Aaron Bernstein, we have no direct evidence that climate change triggered the rapid spread of the corona virus. However, we know that climate change has changed our relationship with other species on Earth and this is important for the risk of infection.
As the planet heats up, various species living on land and in the sea turn to the poles due to heat increase. This means that many species (that should not normally contact) contact with each other, and there is an opportunity for pathogens to settle in new species. In addition, deforestation is the biggest cause of habitat loss in the world. Habitat loss also forces animals to migrate, contact with the new species, and therefore meet new pathogens.
The decrease in the carbon emissions is temporary
As we all know, global greenhouse gas emissions have been recently reduced due to the reduction of industrial working hours, closed shops and changes in life habits after corona virüs. Guardian’s Global Environment Editor, Jonathan Watts, said: "If this downtrend in carbon emissions continues, we can witness global emissions decrease for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis."
Many experts say that the corona virus will have a negative impact on the climate crisis. For example, according to Rob Jackson, Stanford University Faculty Member; although the corona virus crisis has caused a temporary drop in global carbon emissions, states that will need economic recovery after the epidemic could leave their investments in clean energy or their climate-friendly policies, and this will pose a serious threat to the fight for climate change in the long run.
Moreover, even if this reduction in carbon emissions continues after the epidemic, it is unlikely that we will meet the Paris Agreement targets. According to the report prepared by UNEP, in order to limit global warming with 1.5 degrees, our global carbon emissions should decrease by 7.6% every year. But even in this extraordinary situation, where many businesses shut down and people did not leave their homes as much as possible, emissions could only be reduced by 5.5%. This once again reveals how late we are to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement and that we need to take action immediately.
We could witness a global sense of social co-operation
Some experts think that the corona virus may have other positive consequences for climate change. For example, according to environmental activist Bill McKibben, after the epidemic, states can learn a lesson from the world we live in and the risks it brings, and can make more radical, longer-term plans to combat the climate crisis. Likewise, according to Michael Lazarus, U.S. Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute, there is a sense of social co-operation that emerges in response to a threat, and this may be a sign for the public to come together for the climate crisis.
Home-office practices will increase in the post-epidemic period
Another possible positive outcome could be the increase of home-office practices in the post-epidemic period and this could reduce our personal carbon footprint. With the Coronavirus outbreak affecting the whole world, employees of many institutions started working remotely. It is thought that this may be a turning point for the way people work, and such work practices may increase. According to Josephine Hofmann, Head of Collaboration and Leadership at the Fraunhofer Institute, it has been found that many large meetings where people normally attend by making airplane trips that cause a significant amount of carbon emissions could be successfully held online and are much more efficient in terms of both time and energy. In the UK, it was announced that the trials will take place online. If the system operates successfully, it is likely to become widespread and this is of great importance in terms of reducing our environmental impacts.
Medical wastes should be managed correctly
One of the negative effects of the epidemic on the environment is medical wastes. In Wuhan, which is located in China and accepted as the city where Covid-19 was first seen, it is stated that 240 tons of medical waste was produced daily in hospitals during the peak of the epidemic and this amount was 40 tons under normal conditions. It has been announced that the majority of 7.4 million people living in Hong Kong wear disposable face masks every week for weeks, and the same is true for many places around the world. Tracey Read, founder of the organization called "Plastic Free Seas" in Hong Kong, said that the masks are made of polypropylene, a type of plastic, and it will take a long time to dissolve in nature. All this shows that if the management of these medical wastes cannot be managed correctly, a serious threat awaits both the course of the epidemic and the environment.
This is a test for a possible "climate migration" crisis
Unfortunately, the world couldn’t pass this test. As a result of climate change, we know that we will face many mass migration in the coming periods. The Covid-19 outbreak was a test that shows if the world is ready for it. In Italy, after the announcement of the fact that the cases are concentrated in the north, people flock to the train stations and migrate to the south. Also in India, the 21-day lock-down has been declared but the government has no predictions about what will happen to migrant workers in other cities. Many migrants have died while walking the way back to their home-town. These cases showed us that the governments are not ready for a possible climate migration crisis.