Environmentalists and scientists have been shouting from mountaintops urging citizens of our mother Earth to slow down and stop our mad addiction to fossil fuels. Along comes COVID-19 and suddenly we see the mountain.
Coal burning, oil refining and airline traffic reductions due to China’s lockdown reduced the country’s carbon emissions by 25 per cent, or 200 megatons of CO2 according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. Toronto and other major Canadian cities have seen drastic reduction of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from just a year ago. NO2 irritates our lungs, causes coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. It is linked to the development of asthma and other illnesses.
The evidence that human activity causes pollution and climate change is as clear as the Himalayan mountain range that can be seen from India for the first time in 30 years. And this was accomplished in just a few months.
COVID-19 has also shown us what is possible when we work together and what the consequences of inaction are. Scientist and economists have been warning us for decades that the longer we take in addressing the challenge of climate change the worse it will be. We must act now to avert a future global catastrophe. We need to build more resilience into our systems including our healthcare system, our food system, and our local economy in order for us to deal with what we know will be the adverse impacts of climate change. And while the immediate concern must be the health and well-being of citizens, our politicians must use this time to consider how post-COVID-19 stimulus could be directed to creating jobs in clean tech, renewable energy, energy conservation, and greener transportation.
At the top of our list of priorities, alongside human welfare, must be the biosphere and its future.
This is not a time to bail out oil and gas companies unless to help them transition to clean tech and renewable energy.
Bridget Doherty, JPIC Office, Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, Kingston (ON)
This text is taken from the Summer 2020 issue of the ad vitam webzine “Laudato Si’: Caring for Creation and future generations”