Some policy experts are optimistic that victory over the coronavirus will instill greater appreciation for what government, science, and business can do to tackle climate change. But others believe the economic damage caused by the virus will set back climate efforts for years to come.

A year from now, how will the battle to slow global warming look in a post-coronavirus world? That’s a question being asked a lot these days by policy experts and activists, and it’s one with huge implications. Some hope it will bring out the best in us and our leaders, and that the resurgence of government action during the pandemic offers a way forward for fighting climate change. Others fear the worst, that the rush to resuscitate a badly battered global economy will push climate back down the international agenda.

Optimists side with Bill Gates that fighting the pandemic and climate change are, in policy terms, two peas in the same pod. He says they both require “innovation and science, and the world working together.” Optimists say that the sudden transformation of our lives by COVID-19 will teach us about the virtues of mutual aid, and that it will shock policymakers into being more precautionary in the face of future risks — more inclined to believe the warnings of experts, and less inclined to imagine that the worst may never happen.

And they hope that society as a whole will recognize the power and ultimate duty of governments to act decisively in the common interest, whether enforcing lockdowns or moving aggressively toward zero emissions. “Governments have the critical central role in maintaining our health and safety in times of crisis,” says Mark Maslin, a climatologist at University College London. “We need to harness this new acceptance of government dominance of our lives and shift national and global economies to a more sustainable footprint.”

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Fred Pearce – Yale Environment 360 – April 7, 2020.

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