When the coronavirus pandemic became serious, veteran alarmist Gavin Schmidt took credit for having warned us. Well, yes. Just about the wrong thing, in the wrong way, with the wrong tone. But at least he didn’t blame the pandemic on climate change, as did Vijay Kolinjivadi of the Institute of Development Policy at the University of Antwerp, saying: “Both have their roots in the world’s current economic model – that of the pursuit of infinite growth at the expense of the environment on which our survival depends – and both are deadly and disruptive. In fact, one may argue that the pandemic is part of climate change…” As to how greenhouse gases got those pangolins, civet cats, bats and so on into their cages at the Wuhan market, the details remain to be worked out.
There’s a certain monotony to the herd of pandemic-climate warning Schadenfreude pieces, including Jennifer Good in the Hamilton Spectator saying, well, exactly what you’d expect. “The foundations of a voracious endless growth economy — fossil fuels — are destabilizing the planet’s fundamental functioning; the burning of fossil fuels is destroying what allows us to survive. For decades, environmentalists, scientists and Indigenous people have tried to sound the climate change crisis alarm…. Even after decades of research and warnings, climate change struggles to be seen as the devastating and deadly crisis that it is. Yet the burning of fossil fuels is destabilizing the very foundations of life on the planet.”
How wonderful, then, that the economy is locked down, energy use has cratered and peoples’ livelihoods have been destroyed. “‘Flatten the curve’ has become COVID-19 parlance…. Climate change scientists, activists, Indigenous people have all tried to tell us for decades to flatten the CO2 curve.” And what an opportunity has now arisen: “COVID-19 has shown us what the global community is capable of when we take a crisis seriously, including examples of actions and restraints that have actually lowered CO2 emissions. In her 2019 address to the U.S. Congress, activist Greta Thunberg called climate change ‘the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.’ COVID-19 does not change this designation, but it does show us what taking action can look like.”
We would phrase it differently: COVID-19 has shown us what the global community is capable of when we face a serious crisis. That no one would rationally consider comparable actions for reducing greenhouse gases is because it is not a serious crisis.
At least it wasn’t until, according to Dr. Kolinjivadi, climate change caused the pandemic. Or maybe capitalism caused the pandemic and the climate crisis together: “it is clear to the majority across the world that climate change is happening as a result of human activity – namely industrial production” which “disrupts ecological cycles… This same process is also responsible for COVID-19 and other outbreaks. The need for more natural resources has forced humans to encroach on various natural habitats and expose themselves to yet unknown pathogens.”
Right. So does that mean COVID-19, SARS, Ebola, Zika and all the rest came from the industrial heartland of the United States? No, oddly enough. But let’s not quibble. “In the case of COVID-19, it is suspected that the virus was transmitted to humans at a ‘wet market’ in the city of Wuhan, where wildlife was being sold... The origin of the virus makes it a perfect example of the way capitalism commodifies life to turn it into profit can directly endanger human life.” Yes, if only they’d been ruled by communists, none of this would have happened.
Still, there’s a silver lining. “The rapid response to COVID-19 around the world illustrates the remarkable capacity of society to put the emergency brake on ‘business-as-usual’ simply by acting in the moment. It shows that we can take radical action if we want to. Lockdowns across the world have already resulted in a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants.” Nor does the reality of the economic collapse dampen his enthusiasm for the climate utopia it puts him in mind of. “We need a just climate transition which ensures the protection of the poor and most vulnerable and which is integrated into our pandemic response. This would not only reverse the climate disaster we are already living in but also minimise the risk of new pandemics like the current one breaking out. The just climate transition should involve economic reforms to introduce ‘planned degrowth’ that puts the wellbeing of people over profit margins.”
So making people poorer puts their well-being first. Just don’t tell them. And then we get “The first step towards that is ensuring the stimulus packages that governments are announcing across the world are not wasted on bailing out corporations.” Well sure. Who needs corporations in the Wutopia to come? Though apparently some new ones might be OK. “We should demand that government funds are instead allocated to decentralised renewable energy production in order to start implementing the Green New Deal and create new meaningful jobs amid the post-COVID-19 economic crisis.” And while we’re at it: “In parallel, we should ensure the provision of universal healthcare and free education, the extension of social protection for all vulnerable populations and the prioritisation of affordable housing.”
Not all alarmists are clinking the champagne glasses. Dr. Kate Marvel, a prominent climate alarmist, said in a Tweet about COVID-19 and climate change: “I cannot believe I have to say this, but no, there is no "silver lining" for the climate in a global pandemic.” Nor, let us point out, is there a silver lining for the global pandemic in the climate.