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Confronting Nature -
Covid and Climate Change Compared
Public webinar JUSTA CHAT
Thursday, February 17th 4:00pm MST
b) to put to shame
4. a) to fail to discern differences
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b) to increase the confusion of
Last week's DECARBONIZATION webinar HERE featured a crisp, clear, and convincing series of three episodes siting the problem, the solution, and the impediments in addressing climate change. Skeptics maintain that human beings are not modifying their lifestyles - reducing their carbon footprint, to accommodate nature. For mankind to contain the Covid virus, it took public mandates to change private behavior. Can public mandates stem the catastrophic, existential impacts forecast of global warming? Is that the next public proclamation?
The following article was stirred by the webinar and subsequent editorial appearing in the New York Times, comparing Covid-19 and climate change as both are confronting nature and confounding science. - Editor
Why follow the science? by Yogi Schulz
A recent article “Follow the science?” by David Leonhardt in the New York Times on February 11, 2022, fails to answer many questions. The article discusses the not-so-scientific and sometimes crazy responses to the science of Covid-19. The article made me think that much of the skepticism about climate change is identical to the skepticism we observe about Covid-19. Here’s my comparison.
Article. “The misery of the Covid-19 pandemic — with its death, illness, isolation and frustration — has left many Americans desperate for clear guidance on how to live safely. People want to protect themselves, their family and their communities. This instinct is both understandable and profoundly decent.”
The misery that climate change can inflict is similar. It can bring death and destruction from hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones and flash flooding. It can undermine personal finances and change career and lifestyles choices. People want to protect themselves, their family and their communities from what climate change may inflict.
The phrases “follow the science” and “what the science says” have their uses in discussing Covid. They reject myth and recognize that “some aspects of the pandemic are unambiguous: Covid is more deadly for the unvaccinated than almost any virus in decades, and the vaccines are remarkably effective at preventing serious illness.”
Similarly, if we “follow the science” of climate change, some aspects are unambiguous. The global mean temperature is rising. Excess CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere are the cause. The temperature rise is changing the weather, accelerating the demise and spread of various species of flora and fauna and leading to the emergence of more pathogens. Climate change will be deadly for some species, including Homo Sapiens. However, we can protect ourselves by moving out of flood-prone areas, reinforcing our homes against high winds and reducing the GHG emissions we produce.
Article. “Many other Covid questions, however, are complicated. What does the science say about them? It says many things. Above all, science makes clear that public health, like the rest of life, usually involves trade-offs. People have to weigh the risks and benefits.”
Responding to climate change also involves many trade-offs. We can choose:
Article. “The current stage of the pandemic presents its own set of hard choices and trade-offs. If you wade into the angry, polarized Covid debates on social media and cable television, you will find people who try to wish away these trade-offs. They pretend that science offers an unambiguous answer, and it happens to be the answer they favour.”
Climate change has sparked angry, polarized debates on social media and cable television. You will find many people who try to wish away these trade-offs. You will find others promoting dysfunctional solutions based on magical thinking.
Article. “Proponents of an immediate return to normalcy claim, implausibly, that masks and social distancing do nothing to reduce the spread of Covid and that anyone who says otherwise doesn’t care about schoolchildren. Proponents of rigorous Covid mitigation claim, just as implausibly, that isolation and masking have no real downsides and that anyone who says otherwise doesn’t care about the immunocompromised.”
Proponents of one supposed solution to climate change overstate its benefits while denigrating other solutions as ineffective or too expensive. The fact is that we will require all credible solutions to climate change to be implemented.
Article. “The truth is that Covid restrictions — mask mandates, extended quarantines, restrictions on gatherings, school closures during outbreaks — can both slow the virus’s spread and have harmful side effects.”
The solutions to climate change can both slow the global mean temperature rise and have harmful side effects. The most significant harmful side effect is that the massive cost to implement solutions will raise consumer prices and slow the increase in personal income and wealth. One of he most publicly controversial issues ahead, is how much authority should and will government's exercise in addressing climate change as they have in containing Covid. Weigh in...this is your issue, how you wish to be governed, and the extent to which you take climate change seriously.
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