So, how do we emerge bet­ter and stronger from pan­demic?

Bristol Post - - COMMENT | LETTERS & OPINION -

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


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