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Have coronavirus concerns shut down talk of climate change?

  • by J.W.

“The real question is what happens in the recovery phase. Do we just go back to business as usual?”


A month ago, the images from NASA of reduced air pollution over China were widely shared – and on these pages too:

Carbon emissions are really tricky to measure precisely


It has given many the hope that this can be a permanent outcome of the crisis:

Transition Towns looking beyond Corornavirus


The key being that as we try to climb out of the economic mess – that we do it with the environment very much in mind:

Coupling resilience with sustainability to bounce back stronger from the coronavirus |


However, as the latest NASA photos of the skies over China show, air pollution and carbon emissions are not a priority, as shown in this graphic from the Financial Times:


“But the same story also cautions against expecting this change to last. FT analyzed data from China, which is slowly recovering from its initial outbreak. Pollution levels there are back on the rise, suggesting other cities might follow a similar pattern.”

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The FT and the i-newspaper carry a long piece on the dangers of predicting – and of being able to focus on only one crisis at a time.

With the story in audio format here, where you sign in:
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The Big Read: How coronavirus stalled climate change momentum

Published on 16 Apr

Written by Leslie Hook, Aleksandra Wisniewska

Read by Martin Buchanan


And the same story is here at the Financial Post – and with a different headline.

Click on the link for the full story:


How coronavirus concerns completely shut down talk of climate change

In a world shaped by pandemic, climate change now appears a more distant threat

Yet despite the potential short-term dip in emissions, there is a risk that the pandemic — which is likely to dominate debate for months or even years to come — will overshadow environmental concerns. Climate talks have already been delayed and new policy initiatives postponed. The convention centre that was set to host the UN climate talks in Glasgow in November has been converted into a hospital for coronavirus patients. Governments and world leaders have attention for only one crisis right now.

“It’s going to put a pause on anything climate related,” says Glen Peters, research director at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo. “In the policy discussions for the next 6-12 months, climate is probably not going to be mentioned, it is going to be about coronavirus and economic recovery.”

“What we have seen from all of this, is that we can make changes,” says Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. “We have to recognise there will be other pandemics and be better prepared. [But] we must also recognise that climate change is a deeper and bigger threat that doesn’t go away, and is just as urgent.” He points out that values are starting to shift, as societies accept unprecedented measures such as lockdowns and social distancing. And adds that some behavioural changes could last long after coronavirus. “People have to understand that the consequences of their actions can be collective and can be big,” he says. “In a sense that is the same story in climate change.”

How coronavirus concerns completely shut down talk of climate change |