COVID-19 vs Climate Change

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Emmanuel Smith, a conservationist .

By Emmanuel G. Smith

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a global concern and governments around the world are fighting it in different ways. On April 8, 2020, a State of Emergency was declared by the Liberian Government to stop the spread of the virus which includes a STAY-AT-HOME order. I woke up this morning going through a long To Do List, yet I decided to write an article.

While thinking about a topic to develop, I got reminded that I am a conservationist who has been busy over the years sending out conservation messages in Liberia with little or no attention being paid to us. Based on my experiences as a conservationist, I decided to write on “Climate change efforts and messages in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic”. Based on the decision to write on the above topic, I then asked myself these few questions:

  1. How is the world responding to fighting COVID-19?
  2. Is climate change really a concern to the world today?
  3. Had epidemiologists and infectious disease experts predicted COVID-19, would the world listen and act?
  4. Can the world learn lessons from COVID-19 in addressing climate change before it gets too late?

These are the burning questions on my mind that I want to share my opinions on while staying home and observing the government STAY-AT-HOME order. It is important to note that I have always wondered about the world’s response to the issue of climate change. I am writing at this time comparing climate change with COVID-19 because I believe that the climate change issue can lead to a more devastating situation than COVID-19. Anyway, in order to reserve my verdict, below are my opinions on the four questions asked as follow:

  1. How is the world responding to COVID-19? There is no doubt the current COVID-19 situation is the concern of the entire world. Every country on the planet (Earth) is focused on fighting this deadly disease which has claimed and continues to claim thousands of lives. Every country affected has declared either a State of Emergency or STAY-AT-HOME orders as a means of fighting this hidden enemy which I think is in the right direction. It would be an understatement to mention how massive resources (Human & Capital) have been mobilized to fight this disease.

 While it is true that actions by affected countries at the moment is massive, it is also important to mention some countries delayed to take early action in the name of protecting/maintaining their economy. Don’t get me wrong, the economy is important but life is more important than anything. Today, the story has changed because the effect of the virus is seen. Well, with the level of attention given to this virus, I believe it will soon be a history.

It will also be a disservice to the men and women (Doctors, Nurses, Etc.) who are on the frontline fighting this unseen enemy if I did not recognize them. Many thanks to all our front liners and wish you all the best as you sacrifice to save the world from COVID-19. May God protect you and your families as you strive to save the lives of others.

In this section, I think you should get to the point quicker. I think you want to say that the COVID19 pandemic is a global catastrophe and that therefore we are seeing massive resources mobilized to deal with the catastrophe. All the other things you are saying detract from making the main point.

  1. Is climate change really a concern to the world today?

I think there are some efforts being made world-wide to address the issue of climate change. However, I also believe that the world does not really see climate change as a global catastrophe at the moment.

You may agree with me that the effects (wild fire, flood, storm, tsunami, volcanic eruption, earthquake, etc.) of climate change are being experienced by countries all around the world. Conservationists and climate experts have warned and continue to warn of our (Human) actions but we are yet to listen as world. Hey, don’t get me wrong here. My point here is to compare the global fight against COVID-19 in relation to the fight against climate. Some countries have done tremendously well in the fight against climate change. However, to win this fight, it requires a holistic global effort in mobilizing resources (Human & Capital) just like we are doing in the fight against COVID19. In the case of this pandemic, I see a collective fight ranging from declaring State of Emergency, mobilization of resources, exchange of experts and many more. This is the kind of effort I will wish to see in the fight against climate change. Climate change is real and requires a collective global actions and the time is NOW before it is too late. If nothing is done, it effect will be 100+ times the effect of the COVID-19

  1. Had epidemiologists and infectious disease experts predicted COVID-19, would the world listen and act? In my opinion, if the epidemiologists and infectious experts had predicted and warned that there would be a COVID-19 back in 2018, the world would not have listened and acted as it is today. In fact, at the beginning of the outbreak, world leaders were warned but refused to act in the name of protecting their economy. I then wonder, economy for what or who?

Let’s assume that we keep the economy open and running in our various countries and the entire population is infected by COVID-19, what becomes of the economy then? I strongly believe that the spread of the virus to about 210 countries is due to great countries’ refusal to act early in the fight due to the fear of economic downturn. Today, the economy has fallen yet with many lives lost. This is a double (Lives & Economy) effect, it could have been single (Economy) had the world acted earlier. On the other hand, weaker countries particularly African nations fail to act because they are always depended on those great nations. The world needs to listen to experts’ opinions and act on issues that will affect human existence and climate change is just one of those issues that will have global effect if nothing is done. I mean RIGHT NOW.

  1. Can the world learn lessons from COVID-19 in addressing climate change before it is too late? Reflecting on the current fight against COVID-19 pandemic, I strongly believe that we (WORLD) can learn some basic lessons which can be used in the fight against climate change. Below are a few lessons that can be learned from the fight against COVID-19 which I think can be used to tackle climate change:
  • About 210 countries are affected and more than 100,000 lives lost to COVID-19 today because the world did not act early. If the world does not act soon in addressing the issue of climate change, there might be a global effect as big as or bigger than that of COVID19 in a not too distance future
  • The curves are flattening in some countries due to a holistic effort from the government and citizens in general. Climate change is everyone’s business and requires a holistic effort from all to address it
  • Early response in the time of crisis is very important in the mitigation of any crisis. A clear example is China early response which saw the virus contained considerably. The earlier the world responds to the fight against climate change, the better it will be for humankind
  • The initial model in the United States predicted between 100,000-200,000 deaths without actions. With the US taking actions even though late, the new model shows around 60,000 deaths which could even be less. Climate change is real – holistic global actions taken NOW can avert further and worst future effects

About the author:
Emmanuel G. Smith is a conservationist by profession who work for Liberia’s oldest Biodiversity Conservation group, Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) as Local Community Empowerment Officer (LCEO). He holds Bachelor of Science (BSc)  degree in Forestry from the University of Liberia and a member of the Civil Society forest working group (CSWFG). He can be reached on: +231886536640 /+231777916109; and via email: [email protected] Website:  www.scnlliberia.org

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