Coronavirus has arrived in Europe and the phenomenon has triggered a real psychosis among the population. Although Climate Change is more dangerous than Coronavirus, it does not terrify so much, and almost nobody talks about it …
While a temperature of 20.7C (68F) was recently recorded in Antarctica and a 300 square kilometers iceberg broke off Pine Island glacier, the world is panicking over coronavirus, regardless of the terrible consequences of climate change.
Coronavirus has also spread to Italy, making our country the third in the world by number of infections. The fear that the situation may further worsen has led the authorities to adopt drastic solutions. Closure of schools and universities, border controls, emptied supermarkets and travel cancellations are just some of the many consequences linked to the fear that the virus may spread more and more. Medical and scientific communities around the world are working to find an effective vaccine and countermeasures.
Coronavirus and Climate Change: some numbers compared
What many people do not know is that climate change kills more than coronavirus. As reported in an article published by La Stampa, according to the Climate Index Risk, in the last 20 years extreme weather phenomena aggravated by climate emergency have caused 500,000 victims worldwide. WHO estimates that between 2030 and 2050 the planet’s crisis will cause another 250 thousand a year.
According to the latest Worldometers data, coronavirus has so far caused 3,287 victims worldwide.
In our country alone, air pollution causes about 80 thousand deaths every year (The Local data). The number of deaths in Italy from pollution is 25 times higher than that from coronaviruses worldwide.
If we consider the economic impact, IPCC researchers calculate that by 2100 the economic losses due to the climatic emergency will fluctuate between 8.1 and 15 trillion dollars. These numbers should alarm, but to date there have not been such strong reactions to stop environmental catastrophes. Why all this?
Why does Coronavirus terrify more than Climate Change?
According to Giovanni Carrosio, environmental sociologist at the University of Trieste, to give an answer it is necessary to analyse the dynamics with which the social construction of risk takes place.
“To communicate effectively, it is not enough to use objective data or a rational approach. The perception of risks is a very complex phenomenon that takes shape based on people’s experience and beliefs”. This leads to “underestimate or overestimate an event and simultaneously trigger reactions that are not proportionate to the phenomenon”. The classic example is our feeling of traveling by car or plane. “Rationally we all know that flying is safer than driving, but we are all more afraid of taking a flight than driving our car.”
With the spread of coronavirus in our country, we have witnessed discrimination against Chinese citizens only on a racial basis. This instinct is stronger than scientific studies or probabilistic calculations.
Climate Change: a danger that we never had to face before
The big difference in perception of the two phenomena is that while we are witnessing “in first person” the effects that coronavirus causes, the crisis of our planet is taking place in longer times and does not occur directly before our eyes.
Getting involved to stop the virus involves a short-term sacrifice (limiting travel, wearing masks). Trying to fight climate change instead means reviewing lifestyles forever.
Coronavirus brings fear of infection back among people. It is a fear already experienced, which everyone remembers, linked to viruses that terrified the population throughout history. From the Black Death of the fourteenth century, to Ebola or the Spanish Flu of the early twentieth century. Climate change, on the other hand, is something totally new, a danger that humanity has never had to face before. Perhaps, also for this reason it is difficult to understand it and face it seriously.
How to save our planet
The latest satellite images from NASA, the American space agency, show a sudden drop in pollution levels in China. This is certainly a positive fact for our planet. The drop in CO2 emissions is due to the country’s sudden economic slowdown, resulting from the coronavirus. “This is the first time there has been such a dramatic drop over such a large area for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA.
Although environmental awareness has grown significantly in recent years, thanks to the boom of green parties and the youth movements of the Fridays for Future, the climate tragedy we are experiencing continues to play a marginal role in political and public debate. States do not make important decisions, as they did for the virus that is terrorizing the world. The problem of climate change seems something far, which does not concern us directly, but the near future of humanity. There is therefore a tendency to underestimate the climate emergency and to postpone the implementation of such expensive but necessary policies and actions.
Yet, in our own small way, we can take simple daily actions that help limit environmental damage and stop climate change.
The glaciers that melt, the animals that go extinct, the forests that burn, the pollution, are constant alarm cries of the planet that we can no longer ignore.
What do you think of coronavirus terror and environmental damage due to climate change? Let us know yours by commenting on the post!
Cover Image: photo of snehal Kataruka via flickr