Coronavirus and Climate Change Parallels
Updated: Jun 24
Before the end of last year we had been widely informed by our news media about the rapid spread of what later has become to be known as the coronavirus (Covid-19) in China.
The United States and South Korea both had experienced their first cases of the coronavirus at the end of the third week in January. Korea immediately began a nation-wide testing program, social isolation and widespread contact tracking to “flatten the curve” of the rising number of infections. President Trump didn’t want his numbers to look bad and suggested that our number of cases would go down to “near zero” in a few days—that “we got this thing covered” and he was doing a “great job” while suggesting the coronavirus would just “go away” one day like a miracle. All warnings ignored.
Since the late nineteen-seventies scientists have been warning us of the grave consequences of rapidly rising, human-generated carbon emissions. Instead of acting responsibly to assertively reducing carbon emissions by a small percentage each year, we, like other countries, neglected to act to “flatten the curve.” Our international oil and gas companies did not want their profit numbers to be reduced, so they told lies and hid from us information generated by their own scientists.
Being ill-prepared and having lost valuable time, we are now in a desperate struggle to prevent our urban hospitals from being overrun with seriously ill coronavirus patients, while states are frantically scrambling and competing to get the needed personal protective equipment to medical professionals. No federal coordination here. President Trump is more concerned with “opening up business in America,” and “packing the nation’s churches for Easter.”
The need for rapid action to stem the increasing heat waves, melting glaciers, rising oceans, more destructive storms, floods and wildfires is not his concern. Yet the growing number of coronavirus infections and environmental habitat destruction are each increasing and getting out of control on an exponential scale. This is deceptive and difficult for us humans to understand.
Suppose a pair of locusts reproduce themselves overnight in a large cornfield. Each successive night the locusts increase in an exponential way and double their numbers from the day before. 25 days later there is a swarm of more than 67 million locusts and the entire corn field is ravished. How many days would it take for half as many locusts, leaving half the corn field intact? 24! Yet after two weeks there were only 32,768 locusts and they might not be noticed. That’s why after entomologists sounded the alarm in China in January after a relatively small number of infections and deaths, few outside of China took any precautions. They were not personally affected.
It took more than two months to record 100,000 coronavirus infections worldwide. The second 100,000 infections took 11 days, and the third, took only 4 days. Today New York is our Wuhan. Next week it may be New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Miami. Where will we all be on May Day? On Easter Sunday only the hospitals will be packed, not the nation’s churches.
On March 26, the Environmental Protection Agency, led by Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, announced an indefinite suspension of environmental rules during the worsening coronavirus pandemic. Big corporate polluters are being trusted to regulate themselves and will not be punished for not complying with air and water protection requirements and reporting rules. This order is to be applied retroactively beginning March 13, 2020. In effect, this rolls back environmental protections and gives polluters a license to violate our clean air and water laws. They only need to claim those failures are in some way “caused” by the virus pandemic.
How is it that, as a Coloradoan, I am personally liable to be fined up to $5,000 and jailed from six to 18 months for violating our county’s stay-at-home coronavirus order, while out-of-state mining companies are free to pollute our clear mountain air and babbling brooks with impunity?
Next to this coronavirus pandemic, the greatest, most destructive exponential growth events that we need to be looking out for are those related to climate change. Currently we may be in a place that we are not able to recognize the level of carbon emissions in the air around us. But scientists have been reporting exponential increases in carbon dioxide emissions for quite some time now.
Are we as a people, as a nation prepared to take drastic measures and act now? Or will we just respond with denial, as our national leaders, and sit back and suffer the consequences while we await certain devastation?