Of Pandemics and Climate Calamity. An Opinion Letter.

by Larry Powell

I guess you could call this a“what if” letter.

Wildfire smoke from hundreds of kilometres away, clouds
this Manitoba landscape. A PinP photo. 
What if we humans would listen as intently to our specialists in the earth and climate sciences as we now seem to be doing to those in infectious disease? Except for a fringe few (like the wing-nut "Frontier Centre," which likens Covid-19 to a hoax), many of us have accepted that this is serious and lives will be saved if we follow public health directives during this virus's heartless rampage. 

Compare this to the attention given to the decades of warnings of climate collapse and eco-system breakdown from experts in the atmospheric sciences. The differences could not be more stark. 

While our Medical Health Officers and other specialists in the field of infectious diseases are, rightly, being hailed as heroes, climatologists and others in similar fields, have been ignored, at best, or threatened with death, at worst. 

Meanwhile, sea levels have not stopped rising, global heating has not taken a pause and neither have violent, destructive and costly weather events like wildfires and flash floods, or mass species extinctions, just because of the deadly pandemic. 

While greenhouse gas levels did drop significantly due to Covid-imposed lockdowns of travel and industrial plants, much more will be needed to make a lasting difference. Besides, those levels are already on the way back up with such restrictions being lifted in many places.

While a lot of hard-nosed Albertans will never admit it, Fort Mac, hit by a disastrous flood recently (on top of the tragic wildfires that ravaged the Town some four years ago) is, yet again, another tragic example of the cost of climate denial.

In an article I read recently, writer John Gibbons, puts it in a different, perhaps more effective way. 

“Imagine, for a moment  that our government and others around the world had been given detailed information and warnings about the coronavirus years, even decades before it finally erupted. Imagine also that experts had shown the path to minimizing or even avoiding this global disaster, but our political and business leaders, uneasy about the costs of taking action and possible disruption to commerce, chose to ignore the expert warnings as alarmist and carried on regardless.” 

The scenario Gibbons describes is pretty much the way governments have treated long-standing warnings of climate calamity - with contempt, indifference, neglect  or downright hostility. 

So, what if we begin to bring the same, respectful approach to alleviating our climate crisis as, largely, we've already with Covid-19? 

The sky, I do believe, would be the limit!



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