By Annie Fisher
After a seemingly endless quarantine, everyone is ready to forget the dark days of the pandemic and to press the unpause button on their lives. Despite many efforts to return to normalcy, though, the world has been forever changed by this global shutdown. The climate crisis is one area that has been especially impacted by the pandemic, and environmentalists will certainly continue to observe these effects far into the future.
During the height of the pandemic, the halt in environmentally damaging activities, like travel and transportation, alleviated certain effects of climate change. In an article for the New York Times, Lisa Foderaro described how greenhouse gas emissions plummeted over 10% in the United States and 7% globally in 2020. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) claimed that in order to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement, an international climate treaty adopted in 2015, an annual 7.6% reduction in emissions from 2020 to 2030 must be achieved. In other words, this goal would require a continuation of a pandemic lifestyle for several years in order to compensate for the extreme environmental damage. Although this frame of reference may be discouraging, it illuminates the severity of the climate crisis and the extreme action that it calls for.
Another tie between the pandemic and the climate emergency is a shared reliance on the immediate action and attention of politicians and legislators. As national and global leaders exercise their power to impose national restrictions and collaborate with one another to combat the spread of COVID-19, it has become clear that these same actions can and should be applied with as much urgency to the climate crisis. The possibility of extreme action on the part of world leaders is reassuring, as it indicates that a solution to the climate crisis is still in reach, given that efficient action is taken.
Public figures of authority might have access to a wide range of resources and a prominent platform, but theirs are certainly not the only voices that count when it comes to climate activism. Zoe Vittori-Koch ’24, co-head of Winsor’s Conserve Our World club, said, “Public actions and civil disobedience have been really important in the climate movement, so I think that seeing those happening again will continue to strengthen organizing efforts and increase visibility and awareness.” These responses from the general public exemplify how individuals can become leaders within their own communities by demanding action from those with greater power than themselves. This is true within Winsor, especially, and the Conserve Our World club often emphasizes communication with local politicians in order to further climate action in communities closer to home.
The impact of the global lockdown on the climate crisis reaches far beyond its temporary lowering of greenhouse gas emissions. The pandemic served as an opportunity for the world to witness the extreme action required to achieve our ambitious climate goals, while also directing attention to leaders and politicians capable of making significant changes globally. Overall, the pandemic was a reminder that leaders should be exercising their power to the fullest extent, and that we as citizens should be holding them accountable.