Earth Day: Nick Nuttall on Climate Change in a Time of Coronavirus

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Celebrating the 50th annual Earth Day on April 22, MOJEH asks Earth Day Network’s Nick Nuttall what the current pandemic has done to highlight the battle against climate change 


If the current coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is the fragility of our interconnected, globalised, economies to cope with sudden shocks. 

The jury is out on whether governments could have known about and been better prepared to cope with Covid-19. But there is one global risk – infinitely more worrisome, in terms of potential impact – for which the scientific early warning bells have been ringing alarmingly and increasingly for years: climate change. 

Indeed, without speedy intervention now, climate change could harm billions of people, our ability to feed ourselves, put at risk countless communities and the existence of small island nations, and trigger damage down the generations. 

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The April 22 marks the 50th annual Earth Day

Yet we also already know what we need to do to build a better world: one that is as economically productive as today’s but with the benefits such as new kinds of green jobs, cleaner air, healthier oceans, less-polluted communities, and greater social justice. Science argues that to avoid more frequent, harmful extreme weather events and to protect natural systems such as coral reefs and tropical forests like the Amazon, global average temperatures should rise by no more than 1.5°C. 

The world also has a strategy: the 2015 Paris Agreement. Every nation has a plan to reduce their emissions; rich countries will provide support to poorer ones, and efforts to realise a low-carbon world are to be ratcheted up over time. By 2050, the aim is a low-carbon, ‘net-zero’ global society that can look itself in the eye and say “We did it.”

Covid-19 underlines that we are all in it together – no country is immune. Climate change requires the same solidarity between nations and peoples in the face of an even greater risk. There are reasons to be optimistic. The use of clean energy such as wind and solar is, for example, doubling globally every 4.4 years, and over $30 trillion-worth of investment has been pledged to support a low-carbon, green economy. 

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Climate change requires the same solidarity as the coronavirus crisis

But we are still behind the curve on a range of sectors, from the construction and operation of our homes and buildings, and the way we manage food, to the impact of consumer goods such as clothing, beauty goods and electrical devices. Unlike a disease, for which science can often rapidly find a vaccine, there will be no cure for climate change if it is only partially addressed. 

As the world marks the 50th Earth Day, we look to the next key UN climate conference in the UK to make 2020 a year of stepped-up ambition, and a year to remember for all the right reasons. 

We should also look to ourselves, by urging our governments on to do the right thing and by combining our efforts in our workplaces, our communities and our homes to realise a climate-safe future. 

Nick Nuttall is the Strategic Communications Director, Earth Day Network and former spokesperson for UN Climate Change;

  • Words by Nick Nuttall
  • Images: Unsplash