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Climate crisis and Corona: the missing lessons from the crisis


The corona situation could have turned into a blueprint for correct climate policy. Why we have not (yet) succeeded and what will now be important: the weekly overview of the climate crisis.

Dear readers,

At least one thing would have been said about 2020 shortly before its end: Lesson learned.

This may even apply to the next global health emergency, at least one cannot imagine that the Federal Republic will slide into a pandemic again without an iron reserve of masks and hygiene articles.

We should also have the basics of infection protection for the next few years.

But the hopes that the coronavirus situation might also give rise to convincing arguments for solving the climate crisis, which had been running almost in secret for all these months, were initially disappointed.

In the spring it still seemed as if the state and citizens were showing what they had not been able to do with the climate so far when dealing with Corona: problem-appropriate action.

When it became known what dangers the virus had in its luggage, politics took action.

Crisis teams have been set up, far-reaching resolutions to ward off the threat have been made and financial aid for those affected has been initiated.

The scientific assessments met open ears in ministries and authorities, and experts were heard across the country.

And the citizens - perhaps the most important aspect - recognized the gravity of the situation, went along with the measures and did their part.

It should have stayed that way if the solution to the corona crisis were to become a blueprint for climate rescue.

Only in retrospect does it become clear how the mood changed from the summer and the discussions about the corona pandemic began to resemble the climate debates that had been going on for many years: After the first shock of knowledge, the hour of relativization struck.

The dangers are great, no question about it, but do we also think about economic issues sufficiently?

Do we not have to weigh much more between the necessary health protection and the severe recession that it brings with it?

Don't we need clearer scientific findings before we paralyze an entire country on suspicion, especially since even researchers have very different assessments of how bad the situation really is?

The looming crisis was far away

Although the experts never tire of emphasizing that the virus has not lost any of its lethality and that society is at the mercy of it as defenseless as ever, the country began to feel safe as the number of infections fell.

The winter, which one already suspected that it would drive up the number of cases again, was far away. 

Of course, the comparison between the corona and climate crises is vulnerable because it limps in several places.

Ambitious climate policy, for example, would not result in a shutdown of the economy, contact restrictions and travel bans.

Rather, climate policy is a medium-term, well-organized transformation policy, the fruits of which would make people's lives more pleasant - keyword air pollution.

Prosperity and distributive justice could even increase, better jobs could arise.

Nevertheless, the parallels in dealing with the various crises are interesting, especially with a view to the summer months.

The time between the first and second corona wave in Germany underlines how difficult it is for society to adapt to crisis developments in the medium and long term.

In August, a contribution by researchers led by Kira Vinke from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research appeared in the journal Global Sustainability, in which the authors dealt with the parallels between the corona pandemic and climate change.

Accordingly, it has been shown that people are ready to make short-term, profound changes in their lifestyle in order to curb the virus pandemic.

Conversely, citizens are hesitant when it comes to mitigating the climate crisis with much smaller but longer-term changes in their everyday lives.

An essential difference between corona and climate is now of all things the time window of the options for action: While in the virus situation it is never too late to react with measures to prevent the worst in the case of acutely high case numbers, climate policy requires foresighted action over decades, because today's emissions will fix the situation in 2050 and beyond.

What follows from this?

When communicating about the climate crisis in Germany, the focus should not primarily be on the fact that we are already in the middle of the escalating catastrophe, but that we are at the very beginning compared to what is still to come - but the intensity of our actions today is determined.

More important than an awareness of the threat that is already beginning in the present is one for the future. 

The corona pandemic is not over yet, compared to the quiet summer, winter is more like spring, the beginning of the crisis.

So it cannot be ruled out that we will still draw the right lessons.

But not this year anymore, that's for sure.

If you like, I will inform you once a week about the most important things about the climate crisis - stories, research results and the latest developments on the biggest topic of our time.



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Icon: enlarge

Environmentalists lose battle against Norway's Arctic oil production: Norway's Arctic oil and gas production does not violate the country's constitution.

The Supreme Court dismissed environmental organizations' climate action.

Photo: Bloomberg / Getty Images

The topics of the week

Huge climate experiment in Saxony-Anhalt: This is the weather in 2070

In a high-tech facility near Halle, scientists simulate climate change.

The result is alarming - but there is also hope.

Resolution on the new energy transition law: Germany missed the turnaround

With an application of 320 pages, the amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act is complex as never before.

Will it bring about the promised turnaround for the expansion of green electricity and climate protection?

Renewable energies: GroKo's amendment envisages billions in amnesty for corporations

The coalition is using the amendment to the Renewable Energies Act to quietly push through a billions amnesty for large-scale industry.

The bill should be paid by consumers.

Meat from the laboratory: "We need alternatives that don't mean

having to

do without anything"

At the beginning of December, Singapore became the first country in the world to approve "in-vitro meat".

Business and ethics expert Nick Lin-Hi says why he thinks the approach looks promising.

Water shortage in the subsoil: The hidden drought

Germany's soils are still dramatically dry.

In autumn, too, there was far too little rainfall to fill the underground reservoirs.

Experts warn of protracted consequences.

Green Paper on Public Safety: Disaster Warning for 2030

While the country is fighting against Corona, the new Green Paper is appearing.

Politicians should take the recommendations for action seriously - five years ago the authors warned of bottlenecks in the event of epidemics.

Expansion of wind energy: Greens plead for exceptions to nature conservation

In order to accelerate the expansion of wind energy, the Greens are prepared to accept exceptions to nature conservation.

To compensate, they propose protection programs for species endangered by construction projects.

Biden introduces the climate team: "We have no time to lose"

The future US president wants to do a lot of things differently than Donald Trump in environmental policy.

Now Joe Biden has presented his team that is supposed to take up the fight against the climate crisis.


Term of the week: Kyoto Protocol - a milestone in climate policy

Kyoto has long been synonymous with climate protection.

The protocol adopted in 1997 had primarily a symbolic effect.

Its importance is still unbroken.

The climate term of the week.

Have a good new year,

Your Kurt Stukenberg

Source: spiegel

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