It seemed like a world of endless possibilities, where the limit is not even the sky anymore. Robots and technological innovations everywhere, AI-assistants, tailored advertisements, predictive operations, also political arguments, climate protests, disagreements and bouncing trade-war. A very noisy world, until one day a tiny microscopical organism disrupted this all. The Novel Coronavirus.
It was that day in late September 2019 when the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg topped the news angrily addressing the world leaders in the United Nations; “How Dare You?”. The debate about climate change has peaked and many activists started to escalate their demands to the governments with calls for urgent actions to save the earth from the global warming effect.
The story started earlier in 2018 when the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) -a UN body concerned with climate change – released a report stating that we have only 12 years left to save the planet. Today, in 2020, the global warming temperature is about 1°C above baseline. IPCC’s report stated that with the current rate of increase, the global warming temperature is likely to reach 1.5° by 2030-2052 and ultimately, it will hit 3°C by 2100. At 3°C, we’ll experience extreme weather conditions, loss of ecosystems, a rise of sea-level and severe impact on the people, crops, and livestock and it will be a point of no return for many of the planet resources.
The report has been written by 91 authors from 40 countries with ‘high confidence’ in their assessment. The recommended pathway to avoid this fate was to limit the temperature to 1.5° by 2100 which will require a reduction of the CO2 emissions by 45% from today’s levels by 2030 and to have zero emissions by 2050. So, 12 Years is left to save the planet.
Less than a year later, the world recognized that to reach these targets by 2030, decisive actions and legalization should take place before the end of 2020, so the chance was not 12 years, but only short of two years. A spike of anger has been sparked worldwide with demonstrations and protests especially from students and teens in many of the main cities around the world pushing the policymakers to take quick and proper actions. It wasn’t a few weeks until the planet decided to support Greta and her fellows erupting in much more strong anger around the world.
We’ve seen cyclones in Africa and Caribbean, wildfires in amazon rainforest that was hugely 77% larger than of -2018 wildfires, floods in Asia, extreme heatwaves in Europe with highest temperatures recorded in history and the bush fires in Australia that destroyed millions of acres and killed approximately 1 billion animals.
Notwithstanding all these events, you still find climate skeptics saying it’s ridiculous to believe that manmade emissions can have an impact on the planet. Naomi Seibt, a German teenager who surfaced the media recently as a climate realist, took much interest in opposing climate change movement and she was reacting to whatever activities take place. She looked like Greta, almost the same age, ethnicity and style. Greta says, “I want you to panic”, Naomi says “I don’t want you to panic, I want you to think”, both speak in conferences, make interviews, occupy the airtime. Naomi now is called ‘anti-Greta’ and I believe this was the motive behind her appearance in the first place, to be ‘anti-Greta’, someone to argue, to debate, to keep the balance of the topic and to keep it alive but not concluded. A lot of noise, debates, protests and mutual debunking trials have been taking place, all the time, though, in the background free-market lords are growing their wealth.
Joaquin Phoenix, The Joker, in January, when he spoke to a climate change protest, he invited the people to change their eating habits; to be vegans as a way to help fight the global warming, this is because dairy and meat consumption contributes to the greenhouse emissions. Having that said, he flew to Washington D.C by plane because this is something he can’t control! Nonetheless, 4 months earlier, Greta arrived NYC sailing from the UK across the Atlantic Ocean for a 15-days in a carbon-neutral yacht trip but the yacht sailors flew to NYC to take the yacht back. Anyhow, People hailed for both of them. This causes you to question your next trip and makes you feel guilty while you eat a meat meal on your plane.
Aviation is one of the main producers of carbon emissions on our planet, and despite the efforts to reduce these emissions and design more innovative and efficient aircraft, the year-over-year growth in the traveling industry neutralize these reductions. Aviation is responsible for 2% of the total greenhouse emissions and this percentage is growing. The number of passengers of the commercial flights increased by around 140% from 2004 to 2020. Many people now take flights more often, sometimes a same-day return flight. Low-Cost airliners, improved aviation costs and the growth of the middle class helped to increase the number of flights. Today, there are more than 100 thousand flights per day around the world.
On the other side, ‘flight-shame’ is a new movement that has been initiated to let travelers start feeling ashamed about flying and how this contributes to global warming. Another initiative was ‘We stay on the Ground’ to promote a flight-free 2020 because ” to refrain from flying is one of the most powerful ways we as individuals can reduce our carbon footprint”. Yet, despite these initiatives, people continue to fly, more frequently.
And more ..
Add on top of that, Deforestation, the World Bank estimates that in the past 25 years, forests shrank by 1.3 million square km — an area bigger than the size of South Africa. In 2018, data revealed that every second, a chunk of forest equivalent to the size of a soccer field is lost. The media started to show us the consequences of climate change happening in the Arctic and Antarctica. In September 2019, BBC reported a break of a massive iceberg in Antarctica with a size larger than Greater London.
Yet, people are still arguing and debating. Every single matter in our daily life became debatable despite any clarity. Arguments and disagreement became the normal tone of the conversation whether this discussion is social networking in a dining venue or a political discussion in a parliament. Not to talk about the geopolitical unrest and tensions in different regions of the world and the debate around the AI supremacy versus its necessity for development & Progress.
The pace of life became very exhausting. It became too quick to cope with. The world became too crazy, too noisy, too tense and in a serious need for a Call of Order, and suddenly, out of nowhere, Novel Coronavirus arrived.
Novel Coronavirus COVID-19
A new strain of the Coronavirus family has erupted in China in late December 2019 and rapidly overtook the world infecting more than 100K people and causing an outbreak in almost every country of the world. The virus infects the respiratory system and causes flu-like symptoms whose severity varies from mild to critical conditions causing a disease that has been named by the World Health Organization (WHO) as COVID-19.
The spread of the virus was so quick that it forced countries and governments to put full cities under curfew banning citizens from going anywhere or sometimes, even leaving their homes like in China and Northern Italy. Moreover, many organizations around the world asked their employees to stay home, many factories have closed their doors and almost all the non-necessary travels have been banned. All major events around the world like conferences, sports competitions, trade shows, and exhibitions have been canceled or postponed. Olympics 2020 is likely to be postponed as well.
The virus took the world by storm and within just a few weeks it started to damage the economy, all sectors around the world have been hurt, tourism, manufacturing, trade and civil aviation to name a few. A drastic decline in the global demand impacted all industries and stock markets around the world went plummeting.
Pharmaceutical companies are racing to find a cure, but reports say that medications and vaccines will not be available before next fall in the best case and most likely by next year’s spring. Nevertheless, if you look closely at the virus you will find it a bit weird. While it spreads very quickly, it doesn’t kill that quick, indeed more than 60% of the infected cases have been recovered. The mortality rate is only 3% with the ultimate majority is in China where the virus has been discovered. Also, its significant impact is on the elderly (60+ Years) or the people with chronic health conditions. The mortality rate in people less than 50 years old is less than 1%.
A Point of Order
So is all of this panic justified? Again, people like to debate, some say don’t panic, it’s just a flu-like disease and will not last for long. Other people say the biggest risk is the war in panic and the underestimation of the virus severity. I hold a slightly different view. Not arguing with the above opinions, I see the novel coronavirus came, suddenly, as the call of order that the world needed. The world needed to pause, to take a break, to slow down a bit, to sit and think of all of these debates, trade wars, climate crises and even the unhealthy super-quick pace lifestyles people are living.
Since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, many factories shut down temporarily, cars on roads has been reduced significantly, many flights have been canceled. The total demand for power has been reduced. Coal consumption in power plants reduced by 36%. Greenhouse gas emissions in China have been reduced by 25% in the first two months of 2020. NASA has shared a very mind-blowing picture of the pollution over Wuhan during the outbreak compared to the same time last year. The positive impact on the environment -while temporary- was considerable.
On the political level, countries had to deal with each other – despite disagreements – to share knowledge, learned lessons and experience to combat this virus. Many border controls and travel restrictions have been put in place, that required lots of alignment and continuous communications between the authorities ad health professionals in the different countries to track the cases and contain them.
Socially, people started to slow down, stay home for mote time, reconnect with their families, explore other options to work remotely. Many people started to be mindful, do we really need to travel? Is it a necessary trip? More health awareness has been evolved, not to talk about volunteering efforts.
I think despite all the tragedies, complexities and economic fall, the COVID-19 had some positive side or you may call alert. It’s an opportunity for us to think of what we are doing, individually and globally. It’s a break time that we must make use of and start to weigh our actions and decisions and think of its impact on our communities, people and countries.
A Message to Listen
Will this positive impact last? Absolutely no. Once the outbreak is over, life’s pace will be back again, maybe faster, factories will run again, flights will be up in the sky and earth temperature will rise back. It’s our opportunity now, while we are fighting the virus we should value our planet and our lives.
Will the Virus disappear? Is it coming to stay? Will we adapt to it? I don’t know, I don’t think anybody knows but what I know is that it came with a message and we should listen.