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The link between COVID-19 and the climate change agenda

Can the COVID-19 crisis shift the paradigm on climate change? That’s the question on the lips of climate advocates right now. The most notable shifts started with reduced CO2 emissions, quieter roads and towns, and a seismic shift in how we produce and consume goods. But we need to mobilise sustainable development so that we can achieve viable sustainable recovery in the long term. Climate change awareness and activism was gaining momentum until the pandemic inevitably stole the spotlight, but some of the behavioural changes generated from the crisis have lead to significant changes in our relationship with the environment.

So what exactly do climate change and pandemics have in common? Well, government experts have long been aware of the threats and catastrophic outcomes of each, yet remain woefully underprepared to handle or mitigate either. But the government’s actions against the COVID-19 pandemic have had positive impacts on the global climate, starting with decreased air and water pollution.

Perhaps this is the wake-up call we all needed to kick-start a more circular and green economy. But the problem is, as with the threat of a pandemic, the threats of climate change are invisible, leading some to revel in scepticism about the seriousness of these emergencies. That’s why it’s so important to start with attitude - how can we prompt a shift in attitude towards these invisible threats? Has the COVID-19 pandemic been enough to shock us into behavioural change for the better of the planet? How can we mobilise action towards cleaner air, water and more sustainable food systems in the fight against climate change?

Nutcellars work closely with the Neno Macadamia Trust (NMT), and one its sole focuses is carbon emission mitigation. Interestingly, the surface temperature of soil exposed to the sun can be over 55 degrees (°C), yet when the soil is shaded by the tree, it reaches only 26.9 degrees as shown below – nearly 20 degrees less (see image below). One of the most significant effects of high soil temperature is water loss - it simply evaporates from the soil which weakens it and allows the wind to blow it away. Planting macadamia trees will reduce such effects of deforestation while also providing a sustainable source of income and nutrition for the farmers and their families.

NMT deforerstation

It’s likely that the nervousness of the virus will plague many of the population in months or even years to come. That nervousness could trigger a significant reduction in long-term air travel, as people favour holidaying in their home country.

In addition, the new working from home situation is set to become the ‘new normal’. Remote working not only benefits the employees and business owners with reduced costs, improved productivity and removing the potentially unsafe commute, but it naturally benefits the environment. Reduced transportation has already proven to have positive effects in countries like China and India, where the air is cleaner, the sky is bluer, and the countries are healthier than it has been for years.

As mentioned, the pandemic has caused a shift in how we consume and produce goods too. Reduced consumption leads to fewer CO2 emissions, which is responsible for 64% of man-made global warming. Conversely, government investments could slow our efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change, as the fossil fuel economy is given priority.

Future pathways towards sustainable development come in a variety of speculated scenarios and visions, but the pandemic has thrown a huge curveball. What we can be sure of is that the pandemic has caused a major paradigm shift in global behaviour causing unintended benefits on the climate. Assumptions are likely changing with that, as data proves the reduction in air pollution, water pollution and CO2 emissions. To keep this momentum, a fundamental change in our approach to the environment is needed. Small changes such as the foods we eat, our choice of travel, and how we communicate the issue with our peers in other generations. Climate change is certainly not going away, but human efforts can slow the trajectory and give us the time we need to mobilise change globally, and nurture our planet back to good health.

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