Everywhere you go, there is always someone talking about climate change, but what exactly is climate change? Well, I’m glad you asked—the National Geographic Society defines climate change as “a long-term shift in global or regional patterns; often climate change refers specifically to the rise in global temperatures from the mid-twentieth century to present.”
To fully understand climate change, we first need to differentiate between climate and weather. Climate is measured over a long period of time, whereas weather can fluctuate from day to day, season to season or year to year. The climate of an area includes the qualitative measurements of seasonal temperature, rainfall averages and wind patterns. Different areas have vast differences in climates. Some types of climate include tropical climates, which are hot and humid, almost year-round, and temperate climates, which have warm summers and cooler winters.
We’ve heard a lot about climate change in the news recently with Greta Thunberg starting the climate change movement. For years now, we have known that this fluctuating weather is not normal, but now we have something concrete to attribute it to. Now, something else that has been all over the news nowadays is the coronavirus outbreak—let’s talk about how this is terrible news for climate change.
Although it does appear that the global coronavirus outbreak will cut greenhouse-gas emissions this year, as deepening public health concerns ground planes and squeeze international trade, it is a mistake to believe that the virus will meaningfully reduce the dangers of climate change. There have been rare instances in the past when the economy was in turmoil where worldwide carbon pollution dipped, but emissions rise once again as soon as the economy bounces back. If COVID-19 leads to a full-blown global pandemic and economic crash, it could easily drain money and political will from climate efforts.
One of the main ways that climate change is greatly impacted by the virus is that global oil prices took a historic plunge on Monday, driven by a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as growing concern over the coronavirus outbreak. Cheap gas could make already more expensive electric vehicles, a harder sell for consumers. This is why Tesla’s stock crashed on Monday. Another way that coronavirus is affecting climate change is that if there is anymore clampdown on trade with China, where the outbreak originated, it will only further disrupt clean-energy supply chains and distribution networks.
So why should we care about the climate crisis? In short, because the future of the planet is on the line. As the Earth heats up, people across the globe are experiencing more intense rainstorms, intense heatwaves, severe droughts and powerful tropical storms. Rising sea levels are destroying homes. Children, the elderly and the poor—the most vulnerable among us—are in danger of increasing heat stress and air pollution. Unless we act, it will all get worse.