In 2020, humanity faced up to an urgent and deadly challenge. The COVID-19 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spread rapidly and with shocking impacts, tragically claiming (at the time of writing) hundreds of thousands of lives.
Rapid and dramatic action was called for and – thankfully – was largely forthcoming, from governments, businesses and individuals.
Across the globe, drastic lifestyle changes were imposed, with freedoms curtailed and life for many stripped back to the necessities, and yet these changes were generally accepted. Welcomed even. They were to keep us safe. To protect us now and into the future.
The contrast with the Climate Emergency is fascinating. It too is an urgent and deadly existential challenge, and yet the consensus is that actions are too little, too slow, the urgency is lacking, the public buy-in largely absent.
Despite growing awareness over many decades, there is no effective, concerted programme to address this largest of all global problems.
It appears likely that any reduction in carbon emissions as a result of lifestyle changes to contain the spread of the Coronavirus will be only temporary. Furthermore, financial initiatives to help economies restart and other initiatives to prevent the spread of the disease, such as reduced use of public transport and a huge escalation in the use of single use plastics, are likely to bring increased environmental harm.
This Union session looks at the Climate and Ecological Emergency through the lens of the COVID-19 crisis, and asks, what lessons can we learn? How can some of that urgency be brought to this greatest existential challenge? Can lifestyle changes implemented during the crisis which bring positive outcomes for our future sustainability be maintained and enhanced? And can those which are increasing harm be turned around? In short, can this terrible global crisis serve as a wakeup call for action to protect all our futures?
This Union Symposium invites a broad range of thinkers and influencers, ranging from leading climate scientists to broadcasters, policymakers and influencers to provide their perspectives on how the COVID-19 crisis can help inform actions to address our generation’s greatest challenge.
As geoscientists, we watch over the health of our planet, we see the changes, we understand the impacts. We know the likely consequences of inaction. Our community has a vital role to play.
- Rolf Hut, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geoscience
- Alberto Montanari, EGU Vice-President
- Katharine Hayhoe: Professor of political science at Texas Tech University, Director of the Climate Science Center. CEO of the consulting firm ATMOS Research and Consulting
- Andrea Hinwood: Chief Scientist, UN Environment Programme
- Mike Barry: Director of Mikebarryeco, Strategic Advisor for Instinctif Partners and Clim8 Invest, and Board Trustee of A Blueprint for Better Business
- David Mair: Head of Unit, Knowledge for Policy: Concepts and Methods, European Commission Joint Research Center