Coronavirus and Climate

Dear Friends,

I’ve never seen a coronavirus, but the various depictions that accompany news stories about it fascinate me. The virus apparently comes in all sorts of flavors, including cherry, lime, orange, and even grape.




To put that in terms average, microscope-less Americans can relate to, the coronavirus looks, well, a lot like a dryer ball. (Disclaimer: I don’t use a dryer. We’re clothesline- and dryer-rack people. But rumor — i.e, Google — has it that the blue image on the right is a reasonable representation of standard dryer balls.)

The Center for Disease Control and the media should choose a more compelling graphic, one that frightens people to take radical steps — for example, meaningful hand-washing that lasts longer than two seconds and involves, say, soap.

Something like the guy on the left.

Yikes! Now that’s one scary virus. Where’s the nearest bar of soap?

In all seriousness, the coronavirus, as well as the implied risk of a global pandemic, is not to be taken lightly. For details, check out the 1918 global influenza outbreak that sickened 500 million people and killed 50 million.

That said, it’s astounding that so much ink, airtime, and bandwidth are spent on the coronavirus while the present danger of climate chaos is mostly ignored as it wrecks havoc across the globe — particularly in poor communities and the world’s most vulnerable nations.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I should give the mainstream media the benefit of the doubt and credit them with a clever, back-door strategy to reducing our carbon footprint.

As this article in The Guardian points out, the coronavirus scare has “disrupted several events linked to the fossil fuel industry. In the past few weeks, the Geneva Motor Show was cancelled, after Switzerland banned all public gatherings of more than 1,000 people. In Houston, the giant annual CeraWeek gathering of oil and gas executives was called off, as was the Formula One grand prix in Shanghai.”

Closer to home, this past week saw Energy Transfer’s (ET) stock drop 30.82 percent. That’s a huge hit at a time when ET hopes to convince regulators in Iowa and Illinois to let it double the flow of oil through the Dakota Access Pipeline. Authorities in both North Dakota and South Dakota have, alas, already given ET the green light. But the Iowa Utilities Board and Illinois Commerce Commission have expressed reservations about the proposal. Perhaps this week’s stock shock will give regulators further reason to say “no.” (See photo at right from protest organized by Save Our Illinois Land and other groups prior to last week’s Illinois Commerce Commission hearing.)

Back to The Guardian story, which nicely sums up what the response to the climate crisis oughta be: “Governments should act with the same urgency on climate as on the coronavirus, leading campaigners say, as evidence mounts that the health crisis is reducing carbon emissions more than any policy.”

It’s too early to tell, but perhaps the coronavirus will do more to curtail greenhouse gas emissions than the goals agreed to at the 2015 Paris Climate Accord — which most of the world’s nations, especially the biggest emitters, have done little or nothing to meet. See this story in The Guardian for details.

Keep fighting and, yeah, wash your hands. — Ed Fallon