This letter was submitted to The Straits Times in April 2020, but they declined to publish it.
Covid-19 and Climate Change
Some scientists urge [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/28/coronavirus-tackle-climate-crisis-and-poverty-with-zeal-of-covid-19-fight-scientists-urge] that all of us, including our governments take climate change as seriously as we are taking Covid-19.
Singapore is rightfully instituting extraordinary measures to halt Covid-19 before it kills many people. We are uniting as one nation to put up with economic and social disruption. The government is dipping into our reserves. We are doing all this to flatten the infection curve and put this deadly danger in our rear view mirror.
Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates that when confronted with a crisis, we in Singapore can step far outside our comfort zones.
What about with the climate crisis? In many ways, the climate crisis poses an even worse danger. With climate change, there exists no curve to flatten. Once ice melts, it does not refreeze. Scientists cannot develop a vaccine against climate change.
Yes, scientists and entrepreneurs are working on ways to take up excess greenhouse gases and somehow dispose of them, but what about the melted ice, the raised ocean temperatures, the flooded land, and more? Any inventions for those?
Despite the differences between Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, similarities do exist. One similarity is that for both, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Both climate change scientists and epidemiologists stress the benefits of early action. As the United Nations urged back in 2007 (https://unchronicle.un.org/article/how-avoid-unmanageable-and-manage-unavoidable-climate-changes), we have to manage the unavoidable to avoid the unmanageable.
A second link between Covid-19 and the climate crisis is that epidemiologists have warned that our heating planet serves as a roaring engine for future pandemics.
Instead of allowing the environment to become an engine of our future destruction, let us do more to work with nature, for example, doing more to harness the power of the sun, the wind, and geothermal power from the Earth’s interior and to change our diets, to immunize ourselves against worsening climate change and future pandemics.
In this year 2020, we need 20-20 vision that allows us to see the future and take whatever actions are needed to make that future one free of pandemics and environmental devastation