The Climate Crisis in the Face of the Corona Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis that has triggered governments worldwide to direct a monumental amount of time and resources to prevent the disease from spreading, while also evoking mass cooperation and support of citizens. Different countries have therefore drawn comparisons to a war, although now against an invisible enemy. Measures vary in severity, from the closures of cafés, restaurant and gyms, to total lockdowns in some countries. Yet everyone agrees: doing nothing is no option to keep people from dying. Since measures are taken on all levels of society, so the effects of the coronacrisis are pervasive too.

The required collective societal effort, significant economic effects and the need for coordinated government action have prompted comparisons between the coronacrisis and the climate crisis, not least for the prospect of human suffering that can be prevented by timely action. Comparisons are drawn and differences are highlighted regarding many aspects of these crises, ranging from economic impacts and required international cooperation to ethics and the psychological perception of urgency. Several articles relating the climate crisis and the coronacrisis are collected and summarized (by key sentence) here by theme. Naturally, this list is far from exhaustive, as new perspectives are shared every day. If you have an article to recommend, contact us on social media or by email.

Climate goals

Climatologist makes clear: We’re still on pandemic path with global warming (Boston Globe)
Policy makers treat the coronavirus threat with the urgency it deserves. They need to do the same when it comes to an even greater underlying threat: human-caused climate change.

Coronavirus poses threat to climate action, says watchdog (The Guardian)
The outbreak could spell a slowdown in the world’s clean energy transition unless governments use green investments to help support economic growth through the global slowdown.
See also this article from climatechangenews

What the Coronavirus Means for Climate Change (New York Times)
Our response to this health crisis will shape the climate crisis for decades to come. The efforts to revive economic activity — the stimulus plans, bailouts and back-to-work programs being developed now — will help determine the shape of our economies and our lives for the foreseeable future, and they will have effects on carbon emissions that reverberate across the planet for thousands of years.

International Cooperation

The world is coming together to fight coronavirus. It can do the same for the climate crisis (CNN)
The climate crisis, like the corona crisis, is a crisis of global health. Coronavirus has shown that in order to avert the worst impacts of a global crisis, world leaders need to come together to make bold change. We have the tools to do so.

Coronavirus response proves the world can act on climate change (The Conversation)
When the dust of COVID-19 settles, we should look back at this moment as proof that our societies are not enslaved to fate, and find strength in the demonstrated ability of modern societies to react to global emergencies. Yet there are some differences, such as individual countries in principle being able to close their borders and work alone.

Tackle climate crisis and poverty with zeal of Covid-19 fight, scientists urge. (The Guardian)
Government responses taken to suppress the spread of the coronavirus reveal what measures are possible in an emergency, say experts. Responses to the climate crisis as well as to the challenges of poverty and inequality must be changed permanently after the coronavirus has been dealt with.

Free-market Capitalism & Globalization

The Covid-19 crisis is a chance to do capitalism differently (The Guardian)
We now have an opportunity to use the corona crisis as a way to understand how to do capitalism differently. This requires a rethink of what governments are for: rather than simply fixing market failures when they arise, they should move towards actively shaping and creating markets that deliver sustainable and inclusive growth.

Where the Virus and Climate Intersect (New York Times) Some climate experts point out that lawmakers have plenty of options to change the efforts of polluters to contribute to reaching climate goals if they wish, particularly if taxpayers are being asked to save the industry.

Coronavirus poses ‘acid test’ for conscious capitalism; climate pressure continues (Financial Times)
It is one thing for companies to talk about “prioritising stakeholders” and “putting purpose ahead of profit” when times are good. It is another thing entirely to stick to those principles when the economic system is on the verge of collapse.

We created this beast: The political ecology of COVID-19 (Eurozine; originally in De Groene Amsterdammer (in Dutch))
There is nothing ‘natural’ about the coronavirus pandemic: global capitalism has created it. Containment measures of social distancing bear the characteristics of a general strike. It can serve as an experiment taking back control over our own time.

Letters: a collective solution to Covid-19 and climate change (The Guardian)
Only through state intervention can we fight the twin crises of coronavirus and the heating planet.


‘Tip of the iceberg\’: is our destruction of nature responsible for Covid-19? (The Guardian)
A number of researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19. … “We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbour so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses,”

The Coronavirus Is Not Mother Nature’s Revenge (Foreign Policy)
Speaking about illness as a product of unnatural activity facilitates the projection of ideological causes and solutions. Naturalness is an ambiguous metaphysics, an empty and powerful cipher which we can fill however we like. We would never say that vaccines are effective *because* they are *unnatural*—why, then, would we attribute protective properties to something in light of its naturalness?

Climate activism

Climate activism in the time of coronavirus (Axios)
The moment we\’re in requires a different sort of activism, demanding creativity.

Communication / popular perception

Lessons from coronavirus and climate change: Don’t be deceived by small numbers (Grist)
Maybe if people started thinking about 1.5 degrees C like it’s the flu, and 2 degrees C like it’s a life-altering pandemic, politicians will be compelled to take action. Right now, we’re moving too slowly to avoid a worst-case scenario.

Is life during coronavirus how we will live during climate change? (Grist)
“The climate movement has been hesitant to talk about the level of disruptive change needed to transform the economy, because of the sense that public isn’t ready to hear that message and they would react very negatively,” … “But what we’re seeing in this situation, in a condition of emergency, is that people are prepared … to adhere to major disruptions and to support them in the name of health and safety in the public.”

The Analogy Between Covid-19 and Climate Change Is Eerily Precise (Wired)
The initial denialist response to Covid-19, also on a political level, bears resemblances to climate denialism. The perception of the crisis is different accross party lines. “The climate change issue has been transformed into a badge of who people think they are.”

General / Other

Climate Change Has Lessons for Fighting the Coronavirus (New York Times)
Precisely because we are bad as individuals at thinking about tomorrow, economists and psychologists say it’s all the more important to have leaders enact policies that enable us to protect ourselves against future risk.

Coronavirus and climate (Real Climate)
There are direct connections between the corona crisis and the climate crisis, such as reduced emissions of short-lived pollutants. … Planning for low probability, high impact, worst case scenarios is looking pretty smart right now.

Further perspectives on pandemics and climate change (Real Climate)
An overview of the ways in which the climate crisis and corona crisis are comparable.


Dit is de normale orde (De Groene Amsterdammer)
Het coronavirus wordt vaak geframed als een indringer van buitenaf maar dat is een illusie, betogen Bram Ieven en Jan Overwijk in De Groene. Het virus is een direct gevolg van de manier waarop wij met onze planeet en haar ecosystemen omgaan. De overheid moet zich dus niet alleen bezig houden met symptoombestrijding, maar ook fundamenteel na te denken over onze verhouding tussen maatschappij en ecosysteem.

Corona is goed voor het klimaat maar op de lange termijn juist niet (Volkskrant; Dutch)
De coronacrisis wordt ook gevoeld worden in vervuilende industrieën zoals de luchtvaartsector, waardoor uitstoot op korte termijn afneemt. Maar het mes snijdt aan twee kanten: zo is de olieprijs gekelderd, net als de prijs van Europese emissierechten.