So, how do we emerge better and stronger from pandemic?
IT is good news that Airbus is planning a ‘zero-emission’ hydrogen-powered plane by 2035 ( Bristol Post, September 23).
Aircraft powered by electricity are in development by other companies. We should encourage the government to support these initiatives.
Another good piece of recent news is that China is now planning for net-zero CO2 emissions by 2060 (the UK’s target is 2050). If only the USA could change course in a similar way.
However, there is also worrying news of accelerating melting of the vast Antarctic glaciers (sea level rises from these threaten huge numbers of human settlements, including very many cities), and the thawing of the Siberian permafrost threatens to exacerbate global heating by releasing methane and other hydrocarbons, which are powerful greenhouse gases.
The continued deforestation in the Amazon and growing prevalence of wildfires in various countries also adds to the global heating mix.
Also, as highlighted by David Attenborough in his recent Extinction: the Facts programme, we have a million species at risk of extinction, and extinction now happening up to 100 times faster than the natural evolutionary rate, because of many factors including global heating, but mostly due to habitat loss to humans much of it for agriculture.
This human encroachment into natural habitats and exploitation of animals seems to have been how the current Covid-19 pandemic originated, and is a possible source of further pandemics in the future.
So how do we emerge from the current pandemic and tackle these huge challenges? Hopefully science will provide us with a vaccine to Covid-19 and we should use the pandemic as a wake up call to change direction for a more green and sustainable world.
We need to build a consensus for the need for much more urgent concerted efforts to tackle these issues.
For instance, a more rapid switch to green (electric and hydrogen powered) vehicles, ships and aircraft, less waste, more recyclables, and a full move to sustainable energy sources (wind, tidal, solar, and hopefully fusion) to power these changes would help tackle climate change, but also reduce pollution and conserve precious resources.
We should also look for ways to produce food, etc, that reduce the need for agricultural land, eg hydroponics, plant and insectbased meat substitutes.
In this way some agricultural land could be rewilded to slow extinctions and help combat climate heating by replanting trees. Julian Hill