Columns, Coronavirus, Opinion

American Protest: Global warming means more disease and illness

If I have learned anything in the past few months, it is that this country is capable of taking desperate measures to fight against desperate situations. Was it done cohesively and without complaint? No. The fact that so many Americans have basically stopped their entire lives is impressive, though, even if it was mostly done on a state-by-state basis. 

This raises an important question for me: if we can take desperate measures in the face of a public health crisis, why can we not stomach taking desperate measures to prevent global warming? 

I am sure by now you have seen the pictures of Los Angeles without the smog and the reduction of greenhouse gases in the air over China. Shutting the world down has allowed us to visualize how much cleaner the earth could be without our pollution in the short term. 

In fact, a company called IQAir did a study on improved air quality and found extreme drops in particulate matter in the air of cities that historically have the worst air quality. Delhi, India had a 60 percent reduction in air pollution, Seoul, South Korea had a 54 percent decrease and Wuhan, China dropped by 44 percent. 

The World Meteorological Organization predicts that global greenhouse gas emissions will go down by 6 percent this year due to the pandemic. This would be the biggest decline since World War II. They also warned that once the pandemic is over, we will see a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions and that this drop is nowhere near necessary to combat climate change.

This is concerning because even with shutting down large amounts of production throughout the entire world, it is still not enough to reverse the damage we have done. 

Additionally,  oil companies are facing a crisis because of the pandemic. For the first time ever, the benchmark price for U.S. oil dropped below zero dollars. We are even seeing some gas stations close due to the lack of sales. Instead of bailing out this failing industry that becomes more expensive every year, the government should use this as an opportunity to invest in more renewable forms of energy. 

We cannot just go back to life as normal once the pandemic is over or else public health crises will become the new normal as well. Drastic measures and changes need to be taken to try and reverse climate change and this pandemic should be the alarm sounding for the world. 

Why is this pandemic the alarm to stop climate change now? It is because pandemics such as this one will only happen more frequently as we continue to live the way we do. There are studies that indicate that as temperatures warm and the colder seasons become milder, it will be followed with harsher influenza seasons. This means already existing viruses such as the coronavirus could continue to come back with vengeance.

Additionally, in 2015, researchers at Ohio State University discovered 28 unknown viruses in a melting glacier. This means that as we continue to melt the ice caps, previously unreleased viruses could become a threat to us. Other studies demonstrate our susceptibility to respiratory illnesses as the air we breathe in continues to become more polluted. It has been estimated that 90% of the children on this planet breathe in polluted air which damages developing lungs.

There are so many other reasons to stop climate change, but these hit particularly close to home for everyone on this planet right now. I can almost guarantee that no one ever wants to go through this again. In order to ensure that, we must start doing everything in our power to combat climate change right now. If not, we will see drastic consequences that will include more disease and pandemics.

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