by Rhea and Eric Harmsen
A recent picture taken of the atmosphere over Italy just showed a significant decrease in pollution over that country, correlated with its coronavirus lockdown. It even talked of fish and dolphins coming back into the canals of Venice when the boats and ferries stopped churning up the muddy waters. Country after country has locked down or decreased its industry and car use.
What is the impact of shutting down our society on climate change? Will it buy us time? Did it decrease CO2 output? Did it decrease the temperature or at least keep it from rising as quickly? Did we just succeed in doing what was on Greta’s fervent wish list? Did we just give the earth a breather so she can recover a little bit?
When we restart our economies up again, what can we keep from our current shutdown that would benefit the earth and the climate? Does working from home need to become the new normal so that we drastically reduce our automobile pollution? Do we actually need to congregate in order to do all of our jobs? Do we need to relocate our young adults to physical colleges in order to educate them? Do we need to air condition or heat hundreds of millions of square feet of offices? If Justin Trudeau can do his job as prime minister from home while minding three kids, can’t we?
Isn’t the lack of pollution we are seeing proof positive that fossil fuel energy needs to be changed to green sources? Is there anything we can do when industry starts up again to keep it from spewing venomous pollution into the air? And what about air travel? Can we not start to build electric planes? Or find some other form of green energy for planes?
This is an opportunity. This is a moment. We have so many questions. Climate scientists need to model this and to compare their past and present models. This is a big change but is this change even detectable in their models? Does it put us on a new trajectory? This scenario (massive decrease in CO2 output) is better than the best-case scenario that climate change accords could even dream of. And all countries are forced to participate whether they want to or not. With the coronavirus, governments are forced to react to the projections of infections and death by the medical scientists. They are slower, however, to react to the projections of the climate change scientists. Maybe we should be stressing the number of projected deaths from climate change instead of the number of degrees of temperature rise.
But the question is, where do we go from here? We have a few weeks or a few months to answer these questions before we start business as usual again. So, let’s get it right. Let’s honor all this suffering and death and find some answers.