A number of times in recent days, I have been somewhat alarmed by what seems to be the general consensus that the Covid 19 pandemic has ‘given nature some respite’, and the widespread belief that curtailment of human activity has led to big wins in terms of our climate crisis. Some people seem to be feeling a sense of optimism, feeling that (at least for them) the health crisis is nearing an end and in terms of our planet, concerns are once more on the back burner.
In fact, the truth is not quite so appealing. Lockdowns did indeed bring some temporary respite for a wide range of wildlife – and emissions did drop for a time. But this is not a reason to sit back, with a sigh of relief, imagining that all can return to ‘business as normal’.
Scientists looking at data from 2020 have found plenty of evidence that this was not the year nature started to heal. One alarming statistic is that there has been a huge rise in methane emissions – the case of which is undetermined. The news on carbon emissions is not great either. Economic shutdowns led to a 6% emissions drop. But CO2 is still at record levels. Another upsetting fact is that new coal mines opened in China have negated the benefits of the near-record number of closures around the world.
A study from Oxford University has revealed during the pandemic, governments have invested only 18% of recovery funds into activities that will reduce emissions. While here in Scotland, we are very much ahead of the curve, things are not perfect. And elsewhere, the situation is much worse and our climate crisis is pushed down the agenda.
So while we should feel a sense of optimism as more and more people receive vaccines and many people continue to make amazing positive change around the world, we need to keep up the pressure.
We need not only to keep making a difference through small changes in our own lives, but also through keeping up the pressure on businesses and authorities. The climate crisis can be tackled. But we don’t stand a chance if we do not keep these issues front and centre.