Coronavirus and the environment - Five things the crisis teaches us about climate change

The environmental impact of Coronavirus is controversial. However, it is certain that the pandemic teaches us important insights for dealing with climate change


Our world is turned upside down by the Coronavirus. Instead of rushing to the office in the morning, meetings take place over the phone. Followed by online yoga classes, gardening on the balcony, a virtual dinner party and maybe even new skills. Digitization also allows meetings to be held virtually and business trips to be avoided - digital workplace and agile working are currently replacing classic office work.

All this to show solidarity and responsibility, since the pandemic requires acute action. We are ready to act because the consequences of doing nothing are immediate and threatening. In addition to health protection, the measures of the initial restrictions have a surprisingly positive side effect. They concern the environment, pollution and climate change. We highlight what Coronavirus can teach our society: Five insights that can inspiringly be transferred to climate change in the future.

Measures to protect the spread of Coronavirus - a positive balance for the environment

CO2 emissions have been drastically reduced within a few days of restricted mobility, production and transportation. For example, China and the United States, the world's largest emitters, are already experiencing a sharp drop in CO2 emissions. The German Ministry of Health also expects to come closer to the 2020 climate target - reducing emissions by forty percent compared to 1990.

Even Italy, which is particularly affected by COVID-19, can at least find some comfort. The smog over Rome has drastically reduced and Venice's canals have cleared up which is why a large number of fish can be seen again. The current environmental impact of COVID-XNUMX shows how quickly government intervention and responsible behavior can produce positive effects for everyone.

The impending recession has negative consequences for climate change

The global economy is facing recession. It is to be expected that emissions will return to the same level after the crisis, and may even increase if in doubt. Due to the recession, it is of great incentive for many - politically and economically motivated - to get the economy going again as quickly as possible.

So it is likely that the economy will pick up strongly and overproduction will occur to make up for consumption. As a consequence, there are increased emissions and the positive effects that are currently emerging will disappear. Climate experts and politicians therefore assume that the positive effects for climate protection are only short-term.

Corona - more emissions

5 things that the Coronavirus teaches us for dealing with climate change

  1. We can work differently
  2. We feel the crisis across national borders
  3. We trust science and statistics
  4. We can change drastically
  5. We show solidarity

1. We can work differently

The initial restrictions on protection against the virus have changed our everyday work indefinitely. People are increasingly being sent to the home office on a global level. Even if routine work processes have to be adapted as a result, digitization enables us to continue working efficiently: Meetings take place via video conference and updates are communicated digitally. In this way, international relationships can also be maintained and contracts can be negotiated - technology enables space and time-independent communication.

There are more and more online providers which provide digital co-working spaces that enable teams to exchange ideas and developments quickly and efficiently. Continuous job-related travel or driving to work, which severely impact climate change through CO2 emissions, can also be avoided in the future.

Corona Virus - work differently

The situation can also be seen as an impetus to further reduce global supply chains. In OECD countries in particular, they are stagnating or declining. Coronavirus is now another argument for rethinking global interdependencies and focusing on production in home companies for climate protection.

2. We feel the crisis across national borders

A crisis knows no national borders. Often, news about a hurricane on another continent or the advancing glacial meltdown seem to be too far away in order to encourage rethinking on a personal level. Country borders, ecological factors and political, financial and social differences seem to make the home country immune to the problems of others.

A pandemic like COVID-19 proves the opposite. All people live on one earth, form the world's population and are therefore jointly responsible for their whereabouts. Especially in times of globalization, which is characterized by international travel and worldwide political and economic interdependencies and social relationships. Nobody is geographically immune to a crisis. It can affect anybody personally or in corners. Sooner or later, the effects will affect all countries.


Source WHO (World Health Organization) coronavirus infected worldwide on April 1, 2020

3. We trust science and statistics

It is clear that the countries that adhere to expert recommendations for dealing with the virus have better infection balances. Politicians, doctors, virologists and environmental and sustainability researchers base their statements on scientific knowledge, facts and statistics. These are measures based on real facts, instead of exaggerated or fanatical scares. Crises can only be managed efficiently with trust in experts.

It is important to take Climate protection measures like the Climate policy target seriously. The goal is to limit the human and global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius. The uncontrollable climate impacts, such as weather extremes, predicted by experts are based on precise investigations and calculations - no utopian ideas. If we are not willing to trust science and statistics, we are faced with ecologically and economically insurmountable tasks.

4. We can change drastically

Coronavirus and its indirect effects on the environment have shown us how quickly our actions can produce positive effects. If we are ready to rethink and adhere to certain rules due to acute need for action. This willingness contrasts with an ongoing unwillingness to act in relation to crises that are less tangible and immediately threatening. The prime example: climate change. This is just as acute, influenced by everyone every day and threatening us and especially subsequent generations.

In a very short time, goals were achieved - not even intended - that had long been considered impossible to achieve. Even if it is a state of emergency, it is clear that strict measures are sometimes necessary and, above all, effective to achieve goals. Particularly since rising emissions are expected after the crisis, rapid action is now urgently needed to protect the climate. Coronavirus shows us that it is possible.

5. We show solidarity

We all stay at home to protect high-risk groups such as the elderly or those with previous illnesses. Even if an infection could pass by younger people without symptoms, everyone shows solidarity at this time - individuals make sacrifices for the common good. In future exceptional situations, the dynamics could shift again. From crisis to crisis, solidarity and community must come first. This is the only way to solve them in a sustainable and ethical manner and to get them over with.

In this sense, Coronavirus can sensitize us to tackling conflict situations not only quickly, but together. This is particularly important with regard to climate change and its consequences. We must act in solidarity in the thought of future generations. If we do not change our habits, we will create another crises for our descendants.


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