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What does the response to COVID-19 tell us about our ability to cope with climate change? Show more Show less

The global shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic have tested every part of our society, from healthcare, to employment, finance, supply chains, global trade, nationalism, governance, emergency response, and so on. How our governments have responded to the pandemic is revealing a lot about how the world works, and makes us ask what it reveals about potential responses to future disasters, such as the climate change crisis. Is the COVID-19 pandemic a stress test for future climate shock? How prepared are we?

Our current systems are ill equipped to respond to climate change and must be altered completely Show more Show less

We knew this was coming, strategies and plans had been drawn up, but the system has been unable to act in a way that avoids the worst outcomes. The performance should make us certain that the world is ill prepared to respond to larger future climate shocks.
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Our society prioritizes profit over human lives due to capitalism.

As a result of capitalism, our governments are incentivized to prioritize profit and protecting the economy over taking measures to save human lives. The pandemic has forced many factories and corporations to halt production, resulting in a drop in harmful carbon emissions. This, however, is unlikely to continue past the end of the pandemic.
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Context

The Argument

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a historic drop in harmful carbon emissions due to factory closures and a steep decline in car traffic and commercial air travel. Greenhouse gas emissions dropped 25% in China as factories and industrial plants began to close as the country went into lockdown. The U.N has estimated that, in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, our global emissions need to drop by 7.6%. It’s only estimated that our global emissions will drop by 4% in 2020 due to COVID-19. However, if we continued on the path we’re on now, we could see the 7.6% drop that we need. [1]However, in a capitalist system, instead of prioritizing public health and safety, we tend to focus on economic prosperity and profit. Corporations and large companies are incentivized by capitalism to deny the existence of climate change, as adopting more eco-friendly technologies or business practices reduce profits. Controversy has arisen in the United States and in England, where the conservative governments initially hesitated to close business and tell citizens to stay home because doing so would hurt the economy. Instead, they suggested we allow life to continue on as normal, build herd immunity, and view the deaths of the elderly and immunocompromised as “sacrifices.” Many people no longer believe that their governments care about their health or safety. If politicians now are willing to sacrifice the lives of citizens they're meant to represent and protect, it's likely that they'll act similarly when the catastrophic impacts of climate change become more evident.

Counter arguments

Framing

Premises

[P1] The COVID-19 pandemic has forced corporations and factories to pause their operations, which has resulted in a drop in CO2 emissions and proof that big businesses are responsible for the acceleration of climate change. [P2] Because we live in a capitalist society, governments and businesses are incentivized to downplay the dangers of the virus so they can begin earning a profit again. This will likely continue when the climate change crisis begins to worsen.

Rejecting the premises

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/14/834295861/carbon-emissions-are-falling-but-still-not-enough-scientists-say

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This page was last edited on Monday, 18 May 2020 at 21:49 UTC