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What the coronavirus can teach us about fighting climate change

What the coronavirus can teach us about fighting climate change

Will the Covid-19 pandemic change people’s attitudes and trust towards climate change science?

— Anna Baranova, Toronto

The cartoon flashed across Katharine Hayhoe’s social media timeline in mid-July: Two doctors in lab coats scrutinize a box labeled “covid-19 science" while one says to the other, “As long as we just provide the FACTS to the American people.” Next to them, a pair of climate scientists are clutching their stomachs and laughing themselves to tears.

Hayhoe, a climate researcher at Texas Tech University, had to laugh, too. She is all too familiar with the limits of facts when people don’t want to face them.

“We’ve known for a long time that simply communicating scientific facts is not enough to spur what science shows is the correct or rational behavior,” Hayhoe said. “Climate scientists were probably the least surprised people in the world when the response to the coronavirus became politically polarized. Because that’s what we’ve been living through for 30 years.”

To many experts, the coronavirus pandemic — and the United States’ inability to contain it — has felt like the climate crisis “at warp speed,” in the words of ecologist Jeff Dukes. Both disasters were predicted by scientists and could have been prevented, or at least mitigated, by swift and early action. Both the disease and the dangerous effects of global warming have exposed and exacerbated the fractures in our society, hitting hardest in the country’s most marginalized communities.
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