COVID19 and climate change resilience

  • COVID19 and the environment.
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What do our responses to COVID-19 suggest about society’s ability to transform in the context of climate change? New study with NMBU's Department of Public Health Science.

COVID19 and climate change resilience

COVID-19 has triggered major upheavals to life as we know it in just about every corner of the planet. The governance response has been far-reaching, variable and contradictory.

Disruptions such as the pandemic inspire new perspectives on climate resilient development, particularly regarding the role of governance in navigating transformations.

NMBU's Department of Public Health Science teamed up with the University of Oxford and colleagues in Mexico, New Zealand and Sweden to explore what the responses to COVID-19 around the world suggest about society’s ability to transform, in order to support a more climate-resilient future.

A trigger for transformation

Instead of being seen as competing with climate change, the pandemic could be viewed as a trigger for the turbulent transformation that is necessary to address climate change, say the researchers.  

The team identified the tension between transformation and returning back to normal as a key factor in governance for climate-resilient development. How disruption and uncertainty trigger transformation was also considered pivotal, as well as systemic inequality in how people are affected by crises.  

The study spotlights the turbulent nature of transformation, and challenges the belief that predicted, controlled and desired outcomes can be engineered through rational policy decisions.

"COVID-19 has brought home the point very forcefully that planetary health is intimately linked to public health" says NMBU professor and prominent environmental change expert Siri Eriksen. "Our global social, public health, economic and political systems are interdependent and vulnerable. While COVID-19 has shown us that collective action can be swift when required, it has also demonstrated that the outcomes of such action can be unjust. How we make social choices will determine if responses cement business as usual or transform current inequitable and unsustainable development patterns. Rather than constituting a neatly governed process, therefore, transformation is turbulent in that it takes place through shocks, disruption, uncertainty, and contested governance decisions. In order to navigate this turbulence, solidarity and socially equitable governance is required that gives space to contesting politics and scrutiny of the ethical implications of social choices. Otherwise, our responses are likely to intensify turbulence, injustices and vulnerability" says Eriksen.

Disruptions drive transformation

It could be argued that COVID-19 has already transformed the world, with the near shut-down of international travel, social distancing and pared down schedules that compel us to prioritize only the most important work tasks. The disruption, some argue, can be harnessed to accelerate transformation of technologies and economies for climate resilient development. The study contends that transformation is increasingly considered to be essential in the face of climate change.

Read the full article in Climate and Development:
Turbulent transformation: abrupt societal disruption and climate resilient development by E.L.F. Schipper, S.E. Eriksen, L.R. Fernandez Carril, B.C. Glavovic & Z. Shawoo

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Published 10. September 2020 - 11:13 - Updated 16. September 2020 - 8:10