Prof Alice Larkin, University of Manchester, argues that, if our society were really serious about tackling climate change, we would put much greater priority on social and economic change – as shown by the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Article from Responsible Science Journal, no.3; advance online publication: 29 June 2021.
I’ve learnt two important lessons so far from the pandemic. The first is that change can take place quickly and the second is that government and societal priorities can shift dramatically to tackle an emergency.
My third observation is not a lesson as such but something that has sparked my interest. It is that, in the same way that climate science and scientists find themselves scrutinised for clear facts when policy makers are faced with the need to engage with the science, so our medical colleagues find themselves and their science also thrust into this spotlight.
It is even more the case now that they too are now tackling some of the same economic questions, in the terms of the ‘GDP versus science’ debate that many climate researchers have been dealing with for decades.
Policy-makers don’t yet consider climate change an emergency
So what can be harnessed from these lessons to tackle the climate emergency? The pandemic became all-consuming, leading to rapid policy, social and media responses that I suspect hasn’t been experienced by any of us before in our lifetimes. As such, it draws attention to how little credence has been given to the term ‘emergency’ in a climate rather than a COVID-19 context.
First, on the speed of response and government priorities, I’ve spent the last 18 years trying to understand the scale of the climate emergency and how our energy systems need to transform to minimise cumulative carbon emissions…
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