By Pamela McVety, biologist
I have never given more than a few moments consideration to what my life would be like if there was ever a pandemic. Now I know and I join my 7-year-old grandson in saying, “I don’t like it.”
Unfortunately, the virus is a preview of how dramatically and badly our world can change if we continue the business-as-usual approach of ignoring science and electing fact-resistant leaders who promise an ever-expanding economy. Nature is sending us signals. The pandemic is one. Climate change is another.
When I wake up each morning, the reality of a single virus hurling us to our knees, confining us in our homes, keeping me from hugging my grandkids, injuring our economy and killing so many so quickly hits me hard. Few can even explain what a virus is, but here it is, unseen and deadly changing everything about how we live.
A trip to the grocery store now produces anxiety. A car drives by with its windows rolled down and I walk the other way. I can no longer watch the national news.
Under the dark cloud of all the pandemic misery and fears, our government and others are in a full-steam-ahead mode, taking steps that will make our lives even worse.
Our government continues to undo the Obama administration’s actions to cut our carbon emissions. The latest step is to weaken fuel efficiency standards. This will not only lead to our carbon emissions continuing to rise, but will also damage the air we breathe.
You would think that in the middle of a life-threatening pandemic, the administration would use the EPA staff to help fight the coronavirus. But no. Trump’s thugs are using the excuse of the virus to also not enforce pollution regulations for fossil fuel plants and other facilities. They are giving polluters a free pass.
Further, the American Petroleum Institute just announced that it is reorganizing to fight efforts to stop the use of fossil fuels, according to the Washington Examiner. Worst of all, Kentucky, North Dakota and West Virginia quietly passed anti-protest laws criminalizing pipeline protests. The Trump administration last summer also pushed to criminalize some pipeline protests.
This is a dark moment in history. The virus which has hit us hard will lose its power over the next 12 to 18 months — hopefully. Climate change will not go away and our government, instead of focusing all its efforts to stop the virus, is undoing regulations that will make the effects of climate change worse.
The pandemic is a temporary public health crisis that will hurt our economy but it will recover. Way too many people will tragically die, but there will be a vaccine.
Climate change is a permanent public health crisis. It is an economic crisis on a scale that will change the world’s economies. There will be no simple solution like a vaccine. Untold numbers of people will die. We will dislike climate change even more than the pandemic.
Let’s consider the coronavirus pandemic a wake-up call and pay attention to what is happening with climate change, because it is far worse.
Pam McVety, a biologist and Florida native, worked in executive positions for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for 30 years where she dealt with water management, marine resources, ecosystem management and coastal zone management. Since retiring in 2003, she has lectured and written about climate change.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.