Why Covid-19 is more proof that the world must focus on climate change: a warmer earth may bring more viruses and more pandemics

Instead of pointing fingers at each other, political leaders must build bridges and develop cross-boundary measures to limit the spread of the Covid-19 disease. And, once the pandemic is under control, they must explore long-term solutions to deter a recurrence.
Protective gear such as surgical masks have became a daily necessity to reduce the risk of contact with the Sars-Cov-2 virus. However, these disposable masks, which are mostly made from plastics, will add to our waste problem.
Reusable masks would help reduce the problem of plastic pollution and probably prove cheaper over time. The good news is that some local people and organisations have recently devised reusable surgical masks that meet international standards. However, we need entrepreneurs or the government to invest and expand these small-scale operations so they can respond to the surge in demand.
Local companies and universities have also developed sprays that can kill many types of viruses, including Sars-Cov-2. Should such solutions become widely available, we could use them on surfaces such as handrails, allowing the public to go back to work safely and help in the revival of the economy.
No economy was prepared for the pandemic. But scientists have long warned that more viruses might emerge due to the thawing permafrost. In 2005, Nasa scientists successfully revived bacteria that had been captured in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years.
Permafrost is located in extremely cold regions where dead plants, animals and microbes have been trapped for millennia. As permafrost thaws due to global warming, this trapped organic matter becomes exposed and starts to decompose, releasing even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and creating opportunities for viruses to be revived.
It is estimated that permafrost holds 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon, three times the amount that human activity has generated since the industrial revolution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that even if humanity can cap the world’s temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, 25 per cent of the existing permafrost would still melt.
World leaders are currently focused on preserving their national economies and stopping the spread of the deadly virus. But, should they want to save lives and the global economy in the long run, they must transform all nations to become carbon-neutral ones.
Also, the outbreak of coronavirus might be connected with the consumption of wild animals. So, please stop eating wild animals.
Edwin Lau
Founder and Executive Director of The Green Earth
7 April 2020 SCMP