But there are lessons from the current crisis that should guide our response to the next one.
An article by Bill Gates. Reposted from gatesnotes.com. Published: August 4, 2020.
A global crisis has shocked the world. It is causing a tragic number of deaths, making people afraid to leave home, and leading to economic hardship not seen in many generations. Its effects are rippling across the world.
Obviously, I am talking about COVID-19. But in just a few decades, the same description will fit another global crisis: climate change. As awful as this pandemic is, climate change could be worse.
I realize that it’s hard to think about a problem like climate change right now. When disaster strikes, it is human nature to worry only about meeting our most immediate needs, especially when the disaster is as bad as COVID-19. But the fact that dramatically higher temperatures seem far off in the future does not make them any less of a problem—and the only way to avoid the worst possible climate outcomes is to accelerate our efforts now. Even as the world works to stop the novel coronavirus and begin recovering from it, we also need to act now to avoid a climate disaster by building and deploying innovations that will let us eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions.
You may have seen projections that, because economic activity has slowed down so much, the world will emit fewer greenhouse gases this year than last year. Although these projections are certainly true, their importance for the fight against climate change has been overstated.
Analysts disagree about how much emissions will go down this year, but the International Energy Agency puts the reduction around 8 percent. In real terms, that means we will release the equivalent of around 47 billion tons of carbon, instead of 51 billion.
That’s a meaningful reduction, and we would be in great shape if we could continue that rate of decrease every year. Unfortunately, we can’t.
Consider what it’s taking to achieve this 8 percent reduction. More than 600,000 people have died, and tens of millions are out of work. This April, car traffic was half what it was in April 2019. For months, air traffic virtually came to a halt. “What’s remarkable is not how much emissions will go down because of the pandemic, but how little.”
To put it mildly, this is not a situation that anyone would want to continue. And yet we are still on track to emit 92 percent as much carbon as we did last year. What’s remarkable is not how much emissions will go down because of the pandemic, but how little.
In addition, these reductions are being achieved at, literally, the greatest possible cost.
Bill Gates suggests to:
- Let science and innovation lead the way.
- Make sure solutions work for poor countries too.
- Start now.