It was a grim day early in spring when the alarm-bells rang. On March 11, the WHO declare d the global outbreak of the coronavirus a pandemic. By early April, as the economy plunged more perilously than at any time since the Great Depression, half of the world’s population was at home under some form of self- confinement. With humanity retreating indoors, rates of fossil-fuel consumption slumped and greenhouse-gas emissions plummeted. The streets emptied, the skies cleared, and the smog rolled away: Nature had reasserted herself. It seemed, at least for a moment, that one deadly crisis had inadvertently allayed the threat of another. Could a more sustainable way of life look something like the lockdown?
For those who had the luxury of speculating, it was a hopeful prospect. But then the sobering truth emerged: the lockdown measures, as severe as they had been, wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to mitigate the warming of the climate. “Even if people endure huge changes in how they lead their lives,” according to The Economist, “the world would still have more than 90% of the necessary decarbonisation left to do to get on track for the Paris agreement’s most ambitious goal, of a climate only 1.5°C warmer than it was before the Industrial Revolution.” As we emerge from self-isolation, since governments have bungled this opportunity to curb the worst effects of climate change, things will only go back to the way they were. The fatal fallout from ever-rising temperatures will likely be far more devastating than that of the pandemic. What will it take to stop it? Solutions which were once thought impossible, unpalatable, or else politically suicidal will have to be reconsidered.