Government responses to climate breakdown and to the challenges of poverty and inequality must be changed permanently after the coronavirus has been dealt with, leading scientists have urged, as the actions taken to suppress the spread of the virus have revealed what measures are possible in an emergency. The Covid-19 crisis has revealed what governments are capable of doing and shone a new light on the motivation for past policies and their outcomes, said Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London, and chair of the commission of the social determinants of health at the World Health Organisation. “The overriding objective [of governments for the last decade] has been austerity, and life expectancy for the worst-off has declined,” he told journalists at a virtual meeting organised by Plan B and Extinction Rebellion. “Health tells us something fundamental about the nature of our society. What the government was pursuing was a worse society – that may not have been the objective, but it was what came out.” But what had happened in response to coronavirus revealed a new way of operating for governments. “With Covid-19, everything [on austerity] went out of the window. It turns out austerity was a choice,” he said. “The government can spend anything [in the context of the coronavirus crisis], and they have socialised the economy.” The urgency with which the government had acted showed that the response to an emergency could be swift and decisive, he said. But the climate crisis has been viewed as a “slow-burn” issue and had not elicited such a response. “Coronavirus exposes that we can do things differently,” Marmot said. “We must not go back to the status quo ante.”
Guardian 28th March 2020 read more »
For all its horror, the pandemic may change our habits when nothing else could. By the time this horror ends, it might have changed our way of life. Already, the coronavirus has achieved something that government policies and moral awakening couldn’t: it is pushing us into green living. The nature of work, commuting and shopping changed this month. If that transformation sticks, then one day we’ll have happier and more productive societies, and we’ll look back on December 2019 as the all-time peak in global carbon emissions. First of all, the pandemic may show that offices are an outdated way to organise work. This is something I have suspected since my three-year office experience in the 1990s. I was amazed at the inefficiency of the set-up: people spent much of the day distracting each other by gossiping, flirting, bitching about the boss or complaining about that morning’s commute. I’ve worked happily alone for 22 years now. Offices exist largely so that bosses can check whether workers are doing the work (or at least putting in face-time). But nowadays, data can do much of the monitoring. Meanwhile, improved workplace software such as Slack and Zoom lets employees collaborate from home.
FT 19th March 2020 read more »
Ian Colbeck, professor of environmental science at the University of Essex, told The Independent that the reduction in global emissions will most likely be temporary. “Emissions tend to bounce back fairly quickly shortly after a crisis ends,” he said. “Expect to see short-term impacts on energy and emissions disappear as governments introduce stimulus packages to increase industrial output at the end of the pandemic. Following the global financial crash in 2008-09, carbon emissions increased by 5 per cent as a result of such stimulus.”
Independent 28th March 2020 read more »