Climate change and the pandemic effects
The iron lockdown that the Coronavirus emergency forced us to will not have a significant impact on the climate: according to scientists, the lockdown will result in a cut in global warming by just 0.01 degrees by 2030. The study, published in Nature, turns off partly hopes that had been sparked by the sharp decline in greenhouse gas emissions recorded during the lockdown. However, the crisis caused by the Coronavirus could have positive consequences on the climate if, for the recovery, we focus on innovative and ecological solutions.
The researchers analyzed mobility data from Google and Apple to derive information on travel and work patterns, thus being able to get an idea of the level of emissions practically in real time. The data collected were from 123 countries, together responsible for 99 percent of ditch fuel emissions that are produced globally. Scientists found that carbon dioxide emissions fell by more than a quarter and nitrogen oxide emissions by 30 percent in April. However, using some models, the team showed that this decline cannot lead to a significant reduction in long-term global warming.
Such an impressive collapse, however, clearly shows that we are able to make drastic and rapid changes in our behavior, and consequently have the ability to substantially change emissions in the short term. Although it is impossible to maintain drastic blockages such as the one needed to tackle the pandemic for long, these data show how fundamental it is to introduce changes aimed at achieving a zero-emission economy.
While the direct effect of the lockdown on the climate was a reduction of global warming of just 0.01 ° C, the interventions that will be implemented to get out of the crisis generated by the Coronavirus could “avoid future warming of 0.3 ° C by 2050, ‘explained the researchers. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly change the direction of the company,” said Professor Piers Forster of the University of Leeds, who led the research. We must not go back to where we were, because times of crisis are also the time to change ».
Link between pandemic and biodiversity degradation
As for the origin of Covid-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, at the moment the first outbreak is identified in a food market in Wuhan, in the Chinese province of Hubei, where farmed and wild animals were sold . Among the possible vectors were indicated snakes, then bats and then pangolins. In this regard, SARS-CoV-2 is only the most recent of the cases of pathogenic viruses transmitted by a wild animal.
The same happened for example for SARS, avian flu, Ebola and HIV, respectively through the palm owl, dromedaries and primates. To favor the spillover or “species leap”, and therefore the passage and adaptation in humans, this time was the close contact with wild animals, dead and alive, within a Chinese market.
So is the fault of the animals? No. For a change, so to speak, the fault lies with man. In fact, taking wild animals from their natural environment and artificially inducing a high concentration of individuals of various exotic species in a limited space creates the ideal conditions for the transmission of zoonoses.
The genesis of the epidemic is soon done, since the spillover can sometimes result in a certain aggressiveness of the virus in the new host species, also manifesting a high speed of propagation.
But this example, unfortunately, is only the tip of the iceberg of the kind of health risks that our impact on biodiversity can generate. In addition to the collection and marketing of wild animals, there are the risks deriving from habitat modification and the unpredictable consequences of human contact with virgin ecosystems.
Impact of deforestation
For example, several studies show that deforestation increases the risk of exposure to pathogens, such as the Nipah virus, the Lassa virus, malaria and Lyme disease, amplifying their spread. As the virologist Ilaria Capua, director of the One Health Center of Excellence at the University of Florida explains, “Three coronaviruses in less than 20 years are a strong alarm bell. They are phenomena also linked to changes in the ecosystem: if the environment is disrupted, the virus is faced with new guests “.
The causes of climate change are excessive anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Among fossil fuels, electricity and heating systems, livestock farming, industry and transport, it is easy to understand that the impact of human activities and the effects of overpopulation, even here, are the masters.
The reckless increase in the consumption of limited resources, and the unsustainability of the systems of production, transformation and distribution of goods and energy, are now contributing to causing a global climate and ecological crisis.
The increased absorption capacity of its natural reservoirs is then added to the growth of CO2 emissions, as a result of deforestation, and the acidification and saturation of seas and oceans.
By the end of the century, climate change could be a major cause of biodiversity loss. The modification of habitats and the alteration of the nutrient cycle, both by the direct hand of man and by the effect of global warming, are already putting a strain on the delicate balance of our ecosystems and the security of our resources. Both through the ban on the trade and consumption of wild species – as in recent measures in China for pandemic – and through direct interventions to protect natural ecosystems, we cannot avoid defending biodiversity.
Protecting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems means preserving the fundamental component of the response to climate change. Both for mitigation, for the removal of CO2 in the atmosphere, and for adaptation, as shown for example by the plant species that protect the territories from the effects of storms and floods.
The Paris Agreement as a guide to achieving important goals
The Paris Agreement is the first universal and legally binding agreement on climate change, adopted at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015.
Governments have agreed to
- keep the average global temperature rise well below 2 ° C compared to pre-industrial levels as a long-term goal
- aim to limit the increase to 1.5 ° C, as this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change
- ensure that global emissions reach the maximum level as soon as possible, while recognizing that it will take more time for developing countries
- achieve rapid reductions subsequently according to the best scientific knowledge available, in order to achieve a balance between emissions and removals in the second half of the century.
But which are the governments that have signed the agreement?
Like you can see in the CAIT Climate Data Explorer site, the agreement has been ratified by 189 countries representing 97% of global emissions.
The thing that immediately catches the eye when looking at the map is the intent of the United States to leave the agreement. Former President Trump on November 4, 2019 officially activated the exit process from the Paris climate change agreement, motivating the decision made with “unfair economic burdens” on the United States. This blind stance makes it clear that certain administrations are interested only in the economic factor to the advantage of a few but to the detriment of the health of entire populations.
I want to quote here one of Sir David Attenborough’s famous quotes „The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it. ”
Is time to change
Fortunately, as we all know Covid-19 has changed the outcome of the elections in the United States and what was given as a sure victory has turned into a resounding defeat. The disastrous management of the pandemic and the equally disastrous electoral campaign have highlighted who the former President Trump really is and have given him a role in the history of the United States of America that will not be easily forgotten, being among other things the the only president in American history to have been placed under impeachment procedure twice.
But let’s get to the good news, indeed double good news, Joe Biden is the new president of the United States, and Kamala Harris its vice president. As he promised during the election campaign, he signed 17 measures that put an end to the Trump era.
Various aspects touch, above all a decisive turning point on the management of the pandemic that we recall, so far only in the United States it has caused 25 million cases and 400,000 deaths, but then the immediate return to the Paris agreement and the WHO and the blockade of the wall with Mexico.
Why did we focus on the USA? For two reasons, they are responsible for 18% of global emissions and it is therefore very important that they are in the Paris agreements, achieving the goals set becomes really difficult without the contribution of the US. The second reason is that the US has a leading role in international politics, and therefore is a leading example for all, the road is long to save biodiversity and our planet. We need the help of everyone but above all of the big states, Europe, Russia, China, India and of course the USA have a duty to lead the green transition and the time is now.
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