Brief description of a recent talk by Dr. Tom Suchanek on the topic of COVID-19 and Climate Change v. the Economy.
The Renaissance Society 2020 Summer Series of virtual classes are now underway. I was happy to be able to catch this second session in the series after being without a computer for two+ weeks.
(As an aside – my old computer crashed – in case you were wondering why you haven’t heard from me lately).
Over 1,050 attendees participated in the class which included several polls on various related subjects, and a Q&A afterwards.
Who is Dr. Tom Suchanek?
Dr. Tom Suchanek is a marine ecologist who has for the past decade been focused on the threat to the human population of climate change.
Suchanek has an extensive background, having worked with the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Energy.
He is currently a Research Associate with U.C. Davis. Additionally, he has produced numerous publications including co-authoring Marine Life of the Caribbean.
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COVID-19 & Climate Change v. the Environment
A series of slides were presented covering all three topics and weaving together the common themes accompanied with informative commentary.
The two-hour talk will be available to view on his website, where you can also access a variety of related information.
Two Invisible Enemies
Dr. Suchanek made the point that we are currently faced with two invisible enemies – the COVID-19 Pandemic and Climate Change. Both operate on the same spatial scale – global, and neither can be detected using normal human senses.
- Biological agent
- Extremely contagious
- Spread by humans
- Chemical agent
- Very powerful heat-trapping gas
- Spread by humans
Associated Issues: COVID-19 & Climate Change
- Human Health (physical and psychological)
- Societal Instability
- Economic Stability
- National Security
- Environmental Impacts
Impacts of Climate Change
For purposes of this blog post I am going to focus primarily on climate change – which seems to me to be a greater long-term threat.
One of the slides Dr. Suchanek showed the class was a map of the U.S. depicting the billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that occurred in 2019. There were 14 of them all told!
Impacts of climate change include:
- Extreme temperature and snow pack fluctuations
- Extreme weather (storms, winds, tornado’s, hurricanes)
- Extreme floods/droughts/fires/mudslides
- Rapid sea level rise/rising ocean acidification
- Increasing extinction rates
He also brought home the current very real impacts of climate change on, for example, small island throughout the world.
Time is Running Out
A graph illustrated very clearly how the delay in grappling with carbon dioxide emissions only increases the required amount of emission reduction required in order to limit warming to 2C.
For example, starting mitigation in 2000 would have required a global mitigation rate of about 2%/year and starting in 2020 would have required a mitigation rate of about 5%/year.
If emissions remain constant from now to 2030 the required global mitigation rate would be about 9%/year.
The longer it takes, the harder it will be.
Alternative Energy Sources
In order to lower emissions, we have a variety of alternatives to fossil fuels including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal. One factoid that caught my attention:
“Every two minutes, the energy reaching the Earth from the Sun is equivalent to the whole annual energy usage by humanity”.
Dr. Suchanek then presented a list of strategies to lower carbon dioxide emissions and to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
He also presented a list of things that all of us can do to personally assist in the effort. Every little bit helps!
Comments on COVID-19 & Climate Change v. the Economy?
Any comments on the points made and described?
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