Right now, an unintentional but illuminating, large-scale experiment is underway on global emissions. The pandemic has shut down industrial activity, minimized airline flights, car exhaust fumes, and slashed air pollution in our cities. But as soon as the pandemic is over, economies will need to rebuild. Typically, after a downturn, like the financial crash of 2008, there is a surge in emissions as nations crank up their economies. This will almost certainly happen this time, too.
But the outbreak has shown that governments can take radical and urgent action to tackle a clear and present danger. The problem is, the dangers presented by the climate crisis seem too distant to matter to most, especially politicians. But if we think COVID-19 is bad, we ain’t seen nothing yet: the effects of the climate emergency will be far worse down the line.