Author: Kerry Silva McPherson
Barring some glaring exceptions, I’m rather impressed with the US’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. After witnessing climate change denial, flat earth theory, and the anti-vax movement, I didn’t have faith that the American public would be proactive about a viral pandemic.
I was certainly proven wrong (again, with blatant exceptions). To slow disease spread, the CDC advised the public to take preventative measures, and Americans listened. Well before state and federal governments mandated school and business closings, the private sector acted. Professional sports, Broadway, and movie theaters canceled games and shows, voluntarily forfeiting profits for the sake of public safety. Colleges and universities prudently moved classrooms online before governors announced mandatory cancellations.
Clearly, we are capable of putting aside comfort, money, and ambition for the security of public health, so why are we not willing to do the same when it comes to climate change? Our health and safety are not only at risk due to Covid-19, climate change is an ever-present threat to human health, and it’s time for action.
Flattening the global temperature curve.
With a 1°C increase of the earth’s temperature, 2019 was the second hottest year on record. 1.0°C may seem trivial, but the United Nations predicts another half-degree of warming could be catastrophic in terms of coastal flooding, droughts, and heatwaves. When Covid-19 cases were low in number, the importance of social distancing, telecommuting, and hand washing was understood. Similar to Covid-19, the sooner we act to mitigate climate change, the more damage we avoid. And like the pandemic, we do not have to wait for the government to layout regulations.
Learning from mistakes
The reaction to the pandemic was far from perfect; we should learn from our errors. Firstly, we need leaders who can deliver calm, accurate, and useful information. Political affiliations aside, President Trump did not have the rhetoric or composure to address a global pandemic. 2020 is an election year for the president, 33 senator seats, and 11 State governors (US). This is an opportunity to elect leaders that listen to scientists and speak honestly with the public. Secondly, we need to prepare for health-related crises. The shortage of masks and gloves for health care providers is inexcusable, and the lack of a financial plan for a pandemic is shameful. Climate change causes oceans to rise, insect-carrying diseases to flourish, and wildfires to spread. The government needs to have the resources and money to respond to these events, which scientists warn are inevitable as climate change perpetuates.
If we are fortunate, the Covid-19 pandemic will peter out, and our social and work lives will continue. From this experience, we should remember that our health and safety are not guaranteed and that we need to work together to ensure our well-being.