- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Climate activists point to the reorder of society and the economy to resolve the coronavirus crisis and say the same thing can be done to fight global warming.

Even as Americans chafe under job losses and social restrictions, environmentalists see a “silver lining” of falling global emissions while drawing comparisons between the pandemic and the “climate crisis,” a campaign that surged Wednesday with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

“Today is Earth Day, and that reminds us that the climate and environmental emergency is still ongoing,” said Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg. “We need to tackle both the corona pandemic, this crisis, at the same time as we tackle the climate and environmental emergency because we need to be able to tackle two crises at once.”

The World Meteorological Organization said Wednesday that the pandemic shutdown is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions this year by 6%, the biggest one-year decline since World War II and a decrease in line with a recommendation from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“This is roughly the same pace that the IPCC says we need to sustain every year until 2030 to be on pace to limit global warming to 1.5C and hit the Paris climate goals,” tweeted meteorologist and climate activist Eric Holthaus. “This is what ‘far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ looks like.”



Now that people know what it takes to plug global emissions, will they be willing to do it again? Don’t count on it, said JunkScience’s Steve Milloy. He said the pandemic is likely to kill the public’s appetite for social and economic restrictions.

“People are willing to endure this temporarily, but people are getting tired of it already, and it’s only been three weeks,” said Mr. Milloy. “[The activists] would like to take the coronavirus police state and turn it into the climate police state, and I’m just not sure the public is going to want to go from this police state into the next one.”

In a special report released Tuesday, Climate Depot’s Marc Morano warned that climate activists view the coronavirus crisis as a “dress rehearsal for the ‘climate emergency.’”

He pointed out that many of the movement’s goals — reduced air travel, driving and manufacturing — have been achieved by lockdowns to slow transmissions of the coronavirus.

“One thing Greta and all the other climate activists know is that their alleged ‘solutions’ to climate change require many of the massive expansions of governmental power that is occurring under the virus lockdowns,” Mr. Morano said in an email. “They are perplexed as to why people are not taking their ‘climate emergency’ seriously but are taking COVID-19 seriously.”

Climate advocates argue that such a transition should be planned well in advance to avoid the sudden upheaval with the pandemic.

“What we need isn’t a rapid, unplanned recession to avert a pandemic, it’s degrowth — it’s abandoning the concept of growth entirely. It’s prioritizing life, health, happiness above money,” Mr. Holthaus tweeted. “On a finite planet, growth was always a dangerous illusion anyway.”

Bill McKibben, founder of the climate group 350.org, said the “clear skies of this spring, and the overall reckoning of a deathly pandemic” may have strengthened the public’s resolve.

“Who, once they’ve seen the mountains in sharp relief, wants to go back to the haze?” Mr. McKibben asked in a Tuesday op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. “Who, now that they have to focus on the health of their lungs, wants to breathe that crap? Who, now that we’ve seen how fast good governments can move, wouldn’t want to use this moment to help avert the even more dangerous crises that global warming is sending our way?”

The lockdowns may have cleared the air, but the crisis also has taken its toll on the climate movement.

Like other political causes, climate change has been pushed to the back burner as the world struggles to control a disease that has killed more than 183,000 people since emerging in December in Wuhan, China.

Instead of worldwide marches, rallies and other public events, climate activists celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day online with livestreams and teleconferences in observance of social distancing rules.

“It’s going to be a lot less visible. It’s going to be all online,” said Mr. Milloy. “We have a real crisis. We don’t have time for the climate hoax. And Earth Day really now is all about the climate hoax.”

‘Unprecedented wake-up call’

Comparisons to the COVID-19 pandemic were replete during Earth Day events. In his statement, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the pandemic was an “unprecedented wake-up call” that could become a “real opportunity to do things right for the future.”

“The impact of the coronavirus is both immediate and dreadful. But there is another, deep emergency: the planet’s unfolding environmental crisis,” Mr. Guterres said. “Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return. We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption.”

Numerous articles have referred to “flattening the curve” on climate change, the same language used to describe a plan to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.

As Newsweek put it in an April 11 headline: “Scientists cite pollution decrease in calls to ‘flatten the curve’ of climate change post-coronavirus.”

“Scientists, activists and religious leaders ranging from Pope Francis to filmmaker Spike Lee are highlighting lockdown reductions in air pollution and nature ‘coming alive’ as part of a larger call to permanently change industrial and economic behavior after COVID-19,” the article said.

Some climate advocates have called for investing coronavirus stimulus funding in infrastructure projects designed to prepare society for climate change, such as building higher sea walls, upgrading buildings to make them more energy efficient, and replacing fossil fuel plants with green energy.

The author of the Green New Deal resolution, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, said in a now-deleted tweet that “it’s the right time for a worker-led mass investment in green infrastructure to save our planet.”

Former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said last month that the world has an “incredible responsibility” to “converge the solutions — at least the financial solutions — to coronavirus to the financial solutions for climate.”

“Because what we cannot afford to do is to jump out of the frying pan of COVID and into the raging fire of climate change,” she said.

Former Vice President Al Gore and others have sought to link the coronavirus and climate change by noting that air pollution can worsen COVID-19 symptoms.

“The scientists have warned us about the coronavirus, and they’ve warned us about the climate crisis, and we’ve seen the dangers of waiting too late to heed the warnings of the doctors and scientists on this virus,” Mr. Gore said last week on HBO’s “Real Time” with Bill Maher.

Now that Americans understand what it costs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, the question becomes whether they are willing to pay.

“There are trade-offs,” said Southern Methodist University economist Bernard Weinstein. “If we shut down industrial enterprises all over the world for a long period of time, we will see improved air and water quality. But at what human and economic cost? That’s really the underlying debate going on right now about how and when to open the economy in the U.S.”

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