We must learn from the pandemic to prevent environmental catastrophe

COVID-19 shares ‘striking similarities’ with the environmental crises of global heating and species extinction, according to a report which was published yesterday (July 2) in the Journal of Current Biology.

In the report, the researchers have highlighted that COVID-19 has taught us the urgent need for early intervention to reduce death and economic damage from environmental catastrophe.

The researchers have drawn comparisons in what they called ‘lagged impacts;’ for coronavirus, the delay, or lag, before symptoms materialise means infected people spread the disease before they feel effects and change behaviour.

The researchers have compared this with the lag between our destruction of habitat and eventual species extinction, as well as lags between the emissions we pump out and the full effects of global heating, such as sea-level rise.

The researchers include an analysis of the timing of lockdown across and conclude that if it had come just a week earlier then around 17,000 lives in the UK would have been saved, and nearly 45,000 in the USA.

They have compared this to delayed climate action that gives us 2C of warming rather than 1.5C  and which will expose an estimated extra 62-457 million people, mainly in the world’s poorest countries, to drought, flooding and famine.

Co-author of the study Ben Balmford from the University of Exeter commented: ‘Like the twin crises of extinction and climate, the COVID-19 pandemic might have seemed like a distant problem at first, one far removed from most people’s everyday lives.

‘But left unchecked for too long, the disease has forced major changes to the way we live. The same will be true of the environmental devastation we are causing, except the consequences could be truly irreversible.’

Professor Andrew Balmford from the University of Cambridge’s DwEepartment of Zoology added: ‘We’ve seen the consequences of delayed action in the fight against COVID-19.

‘The consequences of continued inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change and mass extinction are too grave to contemplate.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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Pippa Neill

Pippa Neill

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