When we feel that our lives, and those that we love, are threatened, we respond. When governments perceive that their populations are threatened, they respond. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to lock down, businesses to close and people to stay at home. Yet we face a bigger threat and longer lasting effects from the Climate Crisis, but governments aren’t reacting. No Cobra meetings, no sincere declarations of emergency, and no real effort to fight it. We have experts telling us about the risks of Coronavirus and experts telling us about the risks of global heating. So why do we respond to one and not the other? Our decision to respond to a crisis isn’t about what the scientists say; it’s about what we value, what we care about, who we care about.
Are we failing to respond to global heating because ‘climate change’ sounds slow and un-menacing whilst Coronavirus seems to be knocking on our doors?
We can’t see COVID-19, we might not know if we have it, but we know it’s there and we know what to do about it. Experts - scientists - have told us how to reduce transmission and how to keep ourselves safe, and we’re listening. Governments may have been far from perfect in their response, and people may have been reluctant at the start, but it’s clear that the health and security of ourselves, our families and those around us is of primary importance. So important that we have decided to change everything - to put normal life on hold - so as to protect those that we love.
So why aren’t we responding to the Climate Crisis in the same way? Like Coronavirus, we may not be able to see global heating, but experts and scientists - just like the ones we are listening to now - have told us exactly how our climate is changing, what the effects will be and what we can do to stop it.
Yet governments aren’t trying to stop global heating, they’re making it worse.
Like Coronavirus, the Climate Crisis is a direct threat to our health and security. As of writing, just over 199,000 people have lost their lives to Coronavirus. The World Health Organisation states that every year 7,000,000 people die from air pollution alone. Both threats are very real. Yet governments aren’t trying to stop global heating, they’re making it worse. Our government continues to ignore experts and invest in fossil fuel companies.
Are we failing to respond to global heating because ‘climate change’ sounds slow and un-menacing whilst Coronavirus seems to be knocking on our doors? I wonder, if we called it The Climate Pandemic, would the world react?
So is COVID-19 worthy of government attention because it is Europeans, Americans, citizens of the Global North who have wealth and power that are dying?
Does the Climate Crisis seem too distant to be important? Our family members and loved ones might succumb to COVID-19, but they probably won’t lose their life to an extreme weather event or a lost harvest. So maybe we, in the Global North, don’t consider the Climate Crisis to be a threat because we aren’t the ones facing it. The victims of Coronavirus are predominantly in the Global North, especially in Europe.
Cases of COVID-19 across the globe. Information Wikipedia, visualisation Google.
By contrast, the victims of the Climate Crisis are predominantly in the Global South - in Africa, India and Indonesia - where governments lack the money, developed infrastructure and political power to enact change and protect their citizens. The Climate Crisis costs millions of lives every year and will continue to do so until it is dealt with with the same energy as COVID-19 is.
Recorded climate change-related deaths worldwide. DARA
As citizens of the world, we care about the well-being of others, wherever they live and whatever challenges they face.
Responding to a crisis is a decision: that some things are more important than the economy, and that it’s worth making concessions to benefit the greater good. It’s a decision that we care about other people. So is COVID-19 worthy of government attention because it is Europeans, Americans, citizens of the Global North who have wealth and power that are dying? Are the lives of people who live in poorer countries in the Global South less important? That our government responds to COVID-19 but not to the Climate Crisis exposes clear racial, class and wealth prejudices.
It is a clear statement that not all people are created equal. That not all lives are worth the same.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given the world a moment to pause and an opportunity to reset.
This is not what we believe. As citizens of the world, we care about the well-being of others, wherever they live and whatever challenges they face. In fact, an Opinium poll has shown that 48% of the public want the government to respond to the Climate Crisis with just as much urgency as Coronavirus (1). Only 28% disagreed. This is proof that we, the people, want our government to take the Climate Crisis seriously, to listen to the experts, and to create a better world than we live in today - for everyone. It’s time for our governments to adopt the solutions presented to them and to protect humans all over the world.
We don’t have to defend the status quo if it wasn’t perfect in the first place.
And isn’t this a great moment to act? The COVID-19 pandemic has given the world a moment to pause and an opportunity to reset. We don’t have to defend the status quo if it wasn’t perfect in the first place.
It’s time to ask ourselves: What do we value? What do we care about? Who do we care about?
By Louder Than The Storm founder George Jeffreys