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Experts see parallels between coronavirus crisis and climate change

There is no scientific connection, but some see similarities in the way these two global problems play out

DALLAS — The whole world is laser-focused on fighting the coronavirus because our future depends on it.

But, when you think about it, our future still depends on us solving problems that we already had, too. Problems like climate change.

There's no scientific connection between climate change and coronavirus. They are separate issues. However, people who've been looking at these two issues together see parallels.


Let's start with the idea the science for both is sound. In both cases, there is no meaningful dispute about what is happening and why it's happening. 

“In a way, coronavirus is just this sped up, extremely simple version of climate change,” said Emily Atkin. She's a leading climate journalist in the U.S., whose newsletter and podcast focus on the intersection of coronavirus and climate.  

She said the pandemic is showing us that rejecting the science doesn't make the laws of nature go away.

“If you cough, if you breathe, a virus spreads. Whether you like it or not. If you emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it's a heat-trapping gas. It traps heat, whether you like it or not. There's no workaround for these things,” she said.


There's also the idea that we were warned for both of these crises.

For years, climate scientists have warned us about the damage we're doing to our planet, but governments have struggled to take action.

The coronavirus, on the other hand, is a much faster-moving crisis. But there were also warnings.

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe is an internationally renowned climatologist at Texas Tech University.

“I've been thinking more specifically about how we address risk. And how we tend to delay until it's almost too late," Hayhoe said. "And with coronavirus, we delayed a little bit too long but were still able to act. But because climate change plays out over a much longer time, by the time we reach that point where enough of the population sees it with their own eyes, it may be too late,” she said.


And finally, coronavirus and climate change are both global problems. Yes, we as people can do our part to help through social distancing or by reducing our carbon footprint. But Hayhoe said the pandemic is showing us that coordinated government intervention makes the biggest impact.

“What the pandemic has taught us is something we knew but we forgot. And that is we are all intimately connected.

“We are all humans living on this earth. And that is what the pandemic has taught us. And that is exactly the perspective we need to understand why climate change matters and how each of us can help to fix it,” she added.

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