Luiza Beirão Campos
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Hope in a crisis: a green recovery will be decisive for the climate

In December 2019 an emerging virus started spreading in China. In just a few months, it caused significant destruction in Europe. Italy would be hit hard in March 2020 and just a few weeks later, most Europeans were on lockdown because of the newly discovered Coronavirus.

We have now seen an abrupt change in how most of us live our daily lives in these last months. What is consumed, where do we work, who do we meet, where do we visit, and how do we get there. All this changed because of COVID-19 spread. That happened in just a few days in most places, with governments imposing strict lockdown measures: closing shops, schools, and factories, and restricting travel. It had an enormous impact on lives and economies. It caused job losses and an increase in poverty, and food insecurity in many countries.

Unintendedly, the lockdowns also affected air pollution. Cities in China, Italy, India, and many more around the world showed increased air quality. Although climate experts and environmentalists agree that lockdowns are not appropriate measures for tackling climate change, they showed that it is possible to make huge structural changes in a short period with the right governmental willpower.

This crisis can be an opportunity to rebuild better. In a greener, more equitable, and sustainable way. It can stimulate the economy, new technologies, research, jobs, and more.

In fact, if we hope to tackle global change, it may be the only possible way to go. In a recent study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change led by the University of Leeds, the researchers found that with a strong green stimulus (~1.2% of the world's gross domestic product) including climate policy measures, there is a good chance of keeping global temperature change under pre-industrial temperatures by 2050. It is likely that we will surpass the 1.50C threshold over the next few years without a stimulus and keep business as usual.

We are already experiencing climate change effects all over the globe. Increased rain, more hurricanes, and the destructive spread of wildfires. The Amazon, Alaska, California, and many other places in the world are on fire; and with climate change that will only increase with no sign of stopping. To the point that some scientists and politicians call this period the Pyrocene.

But, the solutions to both preventing new pandemics and slowing climate change are similar. In a recent study published in the journal Science, a group of infectious disease experts argues that future pandemics can be stopped by a set of preventative measures that cut down on interactions between humans and wildlife — and protect the environment at the same time. Measures include preserving forests, stopping illegal wildlife trade, and starting a broad surveillance system to catch emerging diseases before they spread.

A green recovery can also promote economic development and the creation of new jobs, through investment in the green sector and through conservation and restoration activities. Especially if done in an inclusive and community-based approach that considers the well-being of those living in the most vulnerable areas to both pandemics and climate change. A rebuild should be focused on protecting the environment, diminishing the impact of extensive animal husbandry and agriculture and resource use, while also focusing on diminishing inequalities, and promoting education.

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