Climate VS Corona: Why Panic About The Virus But Not About The Climate Crisis?

In conjunction with Earth Day for this year, Think City Institute hosted a webinar, Climate vs Corona, comparing the responses towards Covid-19 and climate crisis. Here are some main highlights:

The recent outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on people around the world. Businesses forced to shut down, workers laid off without proper compensation, and many travel restrictions. These are only some of the major effects of the pandemic in a short period of time. Imagine if it is a long-term phenomenon, like climate change, which has been a major concern in the last 50 years.

The role of immediacy

Dr Uta Dietrich (file pic)

According to Dr Uta Dietrich, Senior Manager of the Resilience team at Think City, climate change and Covid-19 have similar traits. Both are threats towards humans. However, they differ in the way we respond to these crises.

People react differently towards the pandemic due to number of reasons. One reason of note is that humans are programmed to respond to immediate over long-term threats.

“The difference between climate and Covid-19 is that the pandemic is much more powerful in having identifiable victims. Photos circulating social media also made huge impact towards the level of awareness.”

Covid-19 is a terrifying and potentially deadly threat. Humans respond aggressively towards deadly threats. Images and videos are key to increasing the urgency, demanding a response. The pandemic has given rise to viral videos and photos showing its deadly nature.

Climate crisis will kill more people in the long run, compared to Covid-19. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that the climate crisis can cause to over 150,000 deaths annually. Yet, it is not treated with immediate response, unlike Covid-19.

The (temporary) bright side

Like many events, it is possible to see a bright side. In the case of the pandemic, nature is ‘recovering’. This can be observed when nitrogen dioxide level decreases, and land surface temperatures drop. This is happening all around the world.  NASA recorded a significant reduction of air pollution in China (although they are on the rise again since lockdown lifted). Circulated images show the Himalayas can be seen for the first time in decades from India, as the lockdown eases air pollution. These are some of the positive effects that the pandemic has brought.

In a few months these positive effects will be gone, and air will be polluted once again as status quo resumes. When the outbreak is over, everyone will be back in business and create more pollution. Pollution may even worsen as humanity tries to get the economy back on track.

“Indeed, that the pandemic has [brought] the nature to self-recovery is a positive aspect. Sadly, these positive effects will not have that much impact towards the climate crisis, but that is way better than nothing,” said Uta.

Moving forward

One thing the pandemic teaches us is that preserving the environment is achievable, given the right amount of time and effort.

One thing the pandemic teaches us is that preserving the environment is achievable, given the right amount of time and effort. It depends on policymakers ensuring these positive effects are sustained even after the pandemic is over. Governments and corporations are investing huge amounts of money in defeating the Covid-19 pandemic, showing that large amounts of funding can be made available when deemed necessary, and in a short amount of time.

It is crucial to come up with better policy and increase our level of preparedness so that whenever there are any other outbreaks, we are fully prepared and ready. We can all treat this pandemic as a lesson to overcome these boundaries and make the earth a better place for everyone.

Written by Adlan Farhan, Think City’s  Brand and Communications intern with a background in journalism.

Watch the archival footage of the webinar here: