Helping the most vulnerable people to cope with the climate crisis can boost the global economy during the Covid crisis and governments should make this a priority, said Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund.
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner – but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats. Our evolution has selected the “fight or flight” instinct to deal with environmental change, so rather like the metaphor of the frog in boiling water, we tend to react too little and too late to gradual change.
As biomedical scientists continue to battle the deadly pandemic this year to help the world return to normalcy, researchers across the disciplines still aim to hit big milestones or launch new projects despite the challenges brought by COVID-19. European scientists will also have to contend with the aftermath of Brexit. Many U.S. scientists, in contrast, have a more hopeful political outlook, with some likely to play an invigorated role in tackling another global crisis, climate change, after President-elect Joe Biden, who has vowed to make it a top priority, is sworn in this month. In this article, Science’s news staff forecasts areas of research and policy we expect to make headlines this year, from protecting the high seas’ biodiversity to probing how ancient humans interacted.
Economic and social shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to noticeable changes in Earth’s environment, at least for the short term. NASA researchers are using satellite and ground-based observations to track these impacts on our air, land, water, and climate.
The recent net-zero pledges by major emitting countries and the potential for a “green recovery” from the Covid-19 pandemic “presents the opening” for the world to close the growing “gap” between existing commitments and what is needed to limit global warming to meet the Paris Agreement goals.
Covid-19 likely emerged from the wilds near southern China, then found residence in horseshoe bats before making the jump to humans. The virus, as of this writing, has infected 63 million people and caused 1.5 million deaths around the world. The global economic impact of the pandemic was estimated at $8 trillion to $16 trillion in July 2020 — it may be $16 trillion in the U.S. alone by the fourth quarter of 2021 (assuming vaccines are effective at controlling it by then). The amount of human suffering this tiny microbe has caused is incalculable: lost loved ones, vanished jobs, broken families, and lingering sickness from a virus that will eventually retreat but will never disappear.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson tabled new legislation today that would force current and future federal governments to set binding climate targets to get Canada to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. “Just like with COVID-19, ignoring the risks of climate change isn’t an option,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “That approach would only make the costs higher and the long-term consequences worse. Canadians have been clear — they want climate action now.”
As society continues to evolve towards a post-pandemic world and the economy adjusts to the new normal, organizations are presented with the opportunity to set the tone for how they adapt their operations and positively impact society. The current situation allows boards an expanded role in steering their organizations along this journey.
Record numbers of companies, cities, states, and regions have reported their climate change, water security, and deforestation data to CDP in 2020, despite the disruption caused to the global economy by COVID-19.