The warning has already been given by environmental associations and now comes from a financial institution as well: the environment is one of the victims of the new coronavirus. In the study “Life After Covid-19”, prepared by Deutsche Bank Research, it is made clear that the mitigation of climate change is still one of the challenges of the century, although public attention has shifted towards the pandemic.
The analyst Eric Heymann considers, nevertheless, that there are positive signs to take into account. He says that many lawmakers and companies have already guaranteed that they will continue to include this topic in their plans as the economy reopens. Meanwhile, the same expert reports some differences and comparisons in the way the World is responding to COVID-19 versus the strategy adopted so far to fight global warming.
One of the main differences between the two problems lies in the potential impact. Although there is no doubt about the seriousness of the threat that COVID-19 poses to the population (namely, the elderly), the same cannot be said about climate change. On the other hand, both are global phenomena, although the local impact of the new coronavirus can be attacked by each country – something that does not happen with rising temperatures, for example. "National measures are largely ineffective in the fight against climate change if the rest of the world does not have the same goals", says Eric Heymann.
As for causes, the same report shows that climate change adds up to several causes based on human activity (use of fossil fuels, for example). In the case of the new coronavirus, this relationship between human activity and the disease will not be so obvious.
Moving on to government measures, the COVID-19 pandemic has led countries to exercise tight controls, including border closures and a ban on certain commercial activities. To cope with the economic consequences of these decisions, aid packages and support lines for companies and families were created. Overall, says Deutsche Bank, people accepted the imposed measures and followed the new rules, although it is not credible to assume that citizens will be able to do so indefinitely.
In the case of climate change, the policies created so far are a combination of obligations (quotas and limits, for example) but also market instruments, such as carbon-related taxes or fees, among others.
What lessons can be learned, then, from the way the new coronavirus is being fought? Analyst Eric Heymann stresses that the current health crisis has shown that people accept restrictions if there is an acute threat. However, it is also being noticed that this acceptance is waning as time passes and that the threat is losing strength. "We do not believe that people in Western democracies will accept similar restrictions to everyday life for purposes associated with climate protection," he says.
Firstly, climate change is not seen as an individual threat that could attack a specific person. Second, people feel that they will be able to adapt to these changes over time. Finally, the contribution of each person or even each country is small to this global problem. "Like it or not, most people just won't be willing to make sacrifices if others don't either."
Instruments associated with the market, such as those already mentioned, seem to be the best solution. At least, until energy alternatives have been discovered and improved that perform well, have a reduced carbon footprint and are cheap.