Comprehensive coverage

The time of the Corona, the age of the climate crisis

Opinion: The corona epidemic has proven that when a growing threat is at hand and when it is tangible and perceived, humanity is able to mobilize resources and creativity to deal with it. Now we have to think about how to apply this also to the threats created by the climate crisis

Solutions to the climate crisis. Illustration: shutterstock
Solutions to the climate crisis. Illustration: shutterstock

By: Moti Kaplan and Dr. Efrat Elron, Angle - Science and Environment News Agency

Assessing the damage of the corona epidemic, it is appropriate that you also recognize its positive effects. Already today it can be proven that the drastic reduction in economic activity, production and trade following the measures to contain the corona epidemic, resulted in a sharp decrease in the demand for fossil fuels and in greenhouse gas emissions and in the level of air pollution worldwide. The factories that were closed and the cars that stopped moving resulted in a reduction of about 50% in the level of air pollution in the cities under quarantine, from New York to Bangalore and Beijing. Satellite images show that blue skies have opened in northern Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Germany, and in Israel the Ministry of the Environment reports a 40% decrease in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations - a pollutant characteristic of the burning of mineral fuels in transport and industry - in March 2020 compared to the previous March.

A preliminary analysis of the data carried out at Stanford University predicts that the continuation of the economic crisis until the end of the year may lower the level of air pollution by 5 percent and reduce the number of people affected by it (4.2 million people die prematurely each year from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases resulting from environmental air pollution (except for buildings ) There is currently preliminary evidence that, as with other respiratory diseases, the extent of morbidity from the Corona epidemic (COVID-19) is affected by the levels of air pollution.

The world received the face of the epidemic happening before our eyes with massive preparation. Most of the governments around the globe have chosen to reduce economic activity, take closures, and social isolation while consciously harming the well-being and livelihood of a large part of their citizens. However, the corona epidemic is nothing more than the end of a series of interrelated existential threats to the human race: the climate crisis, the massive increase in the world's population, and the acceleration in consumption with all the accompanying phenomena - from an increase in the production of waste to deforestation in order to clear areas for agriculture and grazing. These are threats whose influence is increasing, and the results of each of them separately and all together, will be far more destructive to the earth and its inhabitants than the damages of the corona epidemic.

If only the world leaders and decision makers would devote some of the efforts spent on containing the corona epidemic to dealing with the climate crisis, because then a better chance would be opened for the future of man on earth. But threats of immeasurable weight receive little attention, are pushed aside and even thrown at the door of future generations. What can be learned then from the responses and the investment of the many resources in containing the corona epidemic in the context of dealing with the climate crisis?

On two configurations of consciousness

The corona epidemic is tangible, you can touch it, it is here and now, the number of its victims is reported and updated in front of our eyes in real time. The masks and protective suits that remind us all of horror scenarios are everywhere and on every screen. Each of us knows a Corona victim, a friend who is in isolation with her returnee from abroad, an elderly person who remains alone. Everyone had a trip, lecture or event cancelled. The daily existential uncertainty hovers over our heads in every significant area of ​​our lives - the ability to meet, the ability to earn a living, obtaining basic products. The lives of each of us and our lives as a society are undergoing significant and painful changes, and the epidemic, evoking feelings of fear and panic, has become, in a sense, an invisible "common enemy" capable of harming any person.

On the other hand, the nature of awareness of the climate crisis is different. Many of us are aware of the processes of occurrence and the link to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of human activity while others continue to deny it. And we know that handling the looming crisis requires action. The Earth may reach the threshold of warming of 1.5 degrees already in 11 years if significant and quick actions are not taken. Human and ecological systems are undergoing profound changes, and already today the weather is changing, the precipitation patterns are changing, the sea and land ice on the mountain peaks in the poles and in Greenland is melting at an increasing rate, the sea level is rising, the intensity and rate of floods and storms are increasing, the droughts are prolonged and severe, the water shortage is increasing, and the biological diversity Diminishing. We expect increasing risks in the areas of food security and agriculture, availability of drinking water, economic growth and health. But unlike the corona epidemic, the climate crisis and its results appear as separate, local, fleeting, and almost unrelated episodes - such as the fires in Australia, the melting rate of the polar ice caps and the change in precipitation in Israel. The threat is increasing at a moderate pace, and the crisis itself is apparently still far away - 2030 and 2050 and the end of the current century are the years to which the warnings are directed, and they are seen as less relevant for everyday life.

Many studies show that our ability to assess and respond to future risks is limited. Thanks to decades of collaboration between brain researchers and psychologists and the ability to use advanced imaging technologies such as MRI, we understand today that the human brain is not adapted to respond to significant threats in a slow-moving future. We know how to quickly dodge an object thrown at us, but the threat of climate change bypasses our warning systems and does not capture our attention. Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, explains in his book "Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow" that our brain reacts decisively to things we know for sure, but with the increase in complexity, the number of aspects to be considered, and the distance in time, we find it more difficult to decide and act. This bias is also reinforced by our use of the explanatory availability heuristic, a bias in estimating probability based on the ease with which outcomes can be imagined. Thus, results that can be easily described and imagined, presented in an emotionally charged manner will be considered easier to present and act on than results that are difficult to understand.

A change in habits also requires considerable psychological effort, and while many recognize the effects of climate change in its results and are concerned about it, this recognition is not enough to bring about the change in behavior required in the present. Likewise, many of the decision-makers take moderate steps relative to the dangers lurking in front of us.

Illustrating the future through the Corona crisis

The population of the earth will overcome the corona epidemic, whether through vaccines, technological innovations or behavioral changes that we are required to do today. The resulting global crisis brings with it the message of a deep understanding of the heavy price of every day that passes without taking action. The price of its expression is an unnecessary increase in the number of cases of infection and death and in challenges that have become much more complex and significant. The same is the case with the climate crisis - the price of postponing taking mitigation or protection actions, and continuing to march in unsustainable ways, will get worse and worse, along with the intensity of the challenges and damages that will lie ahead. Our actions today, in the face of the Corona crisis, can lead the way to drive action in the face of the climate crisis, despite the differences between the nature of the crises.

On the day after the corona epidemic, it is appropriate that we draw lessons from it to illustrate the global threat and to show the way in which it is appropriate and possible to act. The emotion that arises in the face of disasters that affect us here and now must be combined, together with future-oriented considerations and a more distant and better horizon, using all the media methods that are studied and used these days. At the leadership level, tools are needed that combine and balance the challenges of an informed exit from the current crisis together with the preparation for the climate change crisis. At the same time, it is necessary to understand the common roots of both crises: from man's intervention and massive damage to nature together with the increase in population and the density and consumption culture that accompany it.

Similar to the climate crisis, the corona epidemic shows that the fate of the human race and its health depend on events in distant places, and that the flapping of butterfly wings in one place causing changes in distant places is no longer a metaphor. The greenhouse gas emissions of industrial and consumer countries in the northern part of the planet affect floods that threaten the existence of villages on the coasts of peaceful islands in the South Pacific. The direct connection between the crises should also be emphasized - warming will increase the possibility of the number of epidemics and diseases that will spread in the world, and that the progress of the threat is exponential even if it occurs at a slow pace.

Changes in the fields of regulation, planning, economy, and society

The consequences of the corona epidemic cross borders. It appeals to the immediacy and the sense of urgency, and therefore succeeded in awakening the human beings. It also gives us energy for action and the possibility of learning, drawing lessons, establishing adapted mechanisms, and recalculating a course. All of these will join the fight against the threats facing us. The climate conference that was scheduled to take place this year in Glasgow and postponed to 2021 will allow the countries of the world, including Israel, to mobilize for thinking and decision-making with regard to combining regulation with economic and social incentives that will affect all the causes of the climate crisis. Thus, perhaps the bleak present will pave the way for a better future for the human race.

The current experience at the time of the Corona crisis, illustrates that regulatory, economic, social, organizational and personal changes that were perceived as impossible until now are within the realm of possibility. Active solutions, careful planning that takes into account all the consequences of the climate crisis, together with strict regulation and creativity will lead to the establishment of a gradual and intelligent utilization of natural resources and a reduction in the production of greenhouse gases. In this way it will be possible to reach the level required to maintain the global temperature between 1.5-2 degrees Celsius as the countries of the world committed to in the Paris Agreements.

It is the role of governments to present to their citizens the perception of the threat and to urgently involve them in taking the steps and creating the solutions. At the same time, the leaderships must take advantage of the momentum that has been created and start implementing significant and intelligent regulations, some of which will use the energies, understandings, and restrictions created during the last crisis.

Global transportation as one of the main sources of emissions is a key example. While it is difficult to convince individuals or corporations to reduce the volume of traffic, the Corona epidemic came and proved that it is possible - organizations can be obliged and required to reduce the use of flights and travel as much as possible, allow their employees to work partially from home, and increase the number of remote meetings - while taking into account that internal meetings - Face-to-face as well as conferences are still critical for creating cohesion and organizational culture, learning and thinking together, and opportunities for internal and external organizational collaborations. In order to create this change, a temporary body of experts can even be established whose role will be to think about the regulation and its implementation in cooperation with the organizations themselves.

Another key example is the need to strengthen the role of local agriculture and ecological agriculture, which will enable relatively high incomes for those engaged in them, together with the promotion of the circular economy and the continuation of overall economic growth while maintaining environmental sustainability and increasing food safety (a key issue that arose during the fight against the Corona epidemic). Ways of implementation anchored in the regulation may include requiring the integration of agriculture with the interface of forests in ways that prevent their felling, the restoration of the cultivated lands and the return of their initial capacity to absorb carbon, and the integration of renewable energy systems in the agricultural fields.

This also shows the importance of climate-biased planning that goes beyond local and short-term needs, at the national descriptive level, and even at the level that crosses countries and continents. Planning that sees a broad picture in front of its eyes and takes into account the current and future climate changes in all their aspects at all levels of planning - from national outline plans to the planning of individual houses. In the power of the national planning frameworks to formulate and provide dedicated action plans (that anticipate the effects of climate change), and in the power of the state to adopt far-sighted planning as part of its commitment to its citizens.

Operating systems and approaches

The climate crisis and the planning involved in it can be managed as a campaign for everything - in the combined headquarters work of a body headed by a campaign manager subordinate to heads of government, which will combine expert representatives from all government ministries together with external experts, will be in continuous contact with parallel bodies in the world, and will put forward proposals for regulation, National projects and budgets for the approval of the government and the Knesset. This body will also monitor their execution and synchronize all efforts between the relevant parties and bodies. Part of the activities of this headquarters will be dedicated to encouraging and integrating regional and urban projects, civic initiatives, and national advocacy that combines reason and emotion, with an emphasis on joint and positive action along with presenting the severity of the threat and the way it will harm each of us.

The European Green Law, the EU bill submitted to the European Parliament on March 4, 2020 is part of the "European Green Deal" - one of the most advanced initiatives in the world to deal with the climate crisis through mandatory regulation. A level of emissions equal to the ability of the natural system on land and sea to absorb them. The proposal connects the urgency of the threat to the citizens of Europe and the world and the steps that the European Union must take, and offers a comprehensive and detailed framework that also includes a budget allocation that includes financing regulations, incentives and grants and obligates every government. At the request of 17 European countries, the proposal will become a road map that will enable the right choices on the way out of the Corona crisis and the creation of a sustainable green economy.

This proposal can be a model from which world leaders can learn and adopt the appropriate parts.

The corona crisis, with all the problems it brought with it, may also carry a message, here it has been proven that when a threat is at the door, when it is tangible and perceived, humanity is able to stand against it and mobilize thought, resources and creativity against it. Even if tentative steps and mistakes were made - and are still made - in the end a path of hope is paved. The coping and containment measures taken in the current crisis may be a sign of things to come, and herald that it is possible and possible to stand up against difficult threats that humanity will face in the not-too-distant future.

  • Moti Kaplan is a planner and consultant on national planning, agriculture, environment, and ways of dealing with the climate crisis.
  • Dr. Efrat Elron is an organizational psychologist and has a bachelor's degree in biology. Founder of the Eco Strategies company specializing in environmentally supportive agriculture projects in developing countries.

More of the topic in Hayadan:

One response

  1. The flu virus has a gel coat that protects it and melts in the heat - hence flu
    Hurts in winter. By the way - half a year after Gloi, a series of epidemics appeared
    Summer flu is very contagious but mild, ends up on a lot of tissue paper.
    The virus of the late epidemic has no reason for seasonality.[?]
    Three summer weeks in winter produced a severe third wave of plague.
    Epidemic: magi-fa. That's why a mask.
    "The face of the generation is like a dog's face, with a mouth barrier" said Rabbi Yigal Cohen in a lecture
    YouTube. Not in zoom!!! Let there be freedom and liberty.

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.