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11.04.2020 Feature Article

Covid-19: Hope For Climate Change?

Covid-19: Hope For Climate Change?
LISTEN APR 11, 2020

The debate over the existence of climate change has gone on for decades. However, the inter-governmental panel on climate change (IPCC, 1999) showed in their report that yes, the climate has changed and is now changing in an astronomical proportion. This is evident in the growing incidence of solar flares, landslides, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, drought, floods, etc. Places like Haiti, California and Japan have been perpetual victims of the changing climate and global warming. Africa has also had its pound of flesh of in this regard.

Several countries in Africa, particularly in the Sahel regions are experiencing prolonged drought situation; leading to death among women and children, as well as sparking conflicts and civil unrest in such nations. Ghana also had its share of the changing climate during the June 3 disaster which was a combination of flood and fire. As such, under no circumstance should one doubt the fact that climate change is real.

Generally, there are two main causes of climate change: the natural variability and anthropogenic factors. The natural variability has been identified to contribute very little to the global warming which is causing this climate change. However, the IPCC report indicates that about 99 percent of all causes of climate change is anthropogenic in nature. This means that the causes of climate change are directly from the activities of mankind: bush burning, deforestation, sand winning, quarrying, excessive use of fertilizers, industrial waste, etc. All of these activities destroy the environmental balance and subsequently results in nature checking us. For instance, in Delhi, India, the air pollution rate escalated beyond the usual that schools and businesses had to be shut down (BBC, 2019). This confirms the IPCC report that 99 percent of all climate change is anthropogenic.

The impact of climate change is manifested in decreased agricultural yield, low or excessive rainfall, among others. These negative impact of climate change not only affected the aforementioned areas, but also affects population movement and for that matter migration. As such, climate change has become a global agenda that must be arrested. For that matter, the United Nations in 2015 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals included Climate Change as goal number 13.

Specifically, this goal seeks to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries; integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning; and, improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning (United Nations, 2015).

In the wake of the novel Corona virus, climate change scientists are beginning to wonder is this pandemic can spark some hope for the earth and its climate. Hence, the big question is that is COVID-19 going to help the earth fight against climate change and global warming? To what extent can this “hope” be sustained?

As stated in the earlier submissions, climate change is anthropogenic, that is, it is caused by the activities of man which may include over grazing, burning fuel, deforestation, mining, traffic, etc. However, with the emergence of the COVID-19, majority of human activities have come to a standstill. Major cities like New York, London, Accra, Delhi, Mexico City, Rome, among other that use to experience high human mobility and traffic which translates in the emission of carbon mono oxides have seen drastic decrease in such movements and activities. Most of the affected countries are either in a partial lockdown or total lockdown which limits human activity on the environment.

For the first time in about three decades, the Himalayas is visible again to residents of northern India. This is primarily attributable to the lockdown that have come as a result of the novel Corona virus. Still in India, reports from the India Today Data Intelligence posit that there has been the unhealthy air quality index in many cities have improved by about 33 percent. This change was observed within less than two weeks of lockdown. Consequently, this development spells out some positive impact the COVID-19 can have on climate change and global warming. Hence, it would not out of place to infer that if the COVID-19 keeps longer than anticipated, there would be very significant positive consequences on the climate.

Now, what we should be concerned about is sustaining such momentous achievement. Obviously, if conscious efforts are not made to sustain the improvements in climate change brought about by the COVID-19, then we may very well revert to the old order. As a population health scientist, I agree with Thomas Malthus when he recommends preventive checks to check the population. The improvements seen now is because human are now interacting less with the environment. Hence, there is the need for us to make sure we imbibe that culture in every human. That is the sure way to sustain the improvements we are seeing. There is the need to educate people on the need to continue being circumspect with their interactions with the environment even after the COVID-19 has been eradicated. Again, it tells us that if nations commit to mitigating climate change like how they are committed to corona virus, then we will actually reach that milestone. A collaborative effort from governments, international organizations, NGOs, and CSOs will go a long way to sustain the improvements observed now.

Joshua Okyere
Joshua Okyere, © 2020

The author has 29 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: JoshuaOkyere

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