Earlier this year, in the midst of a horrific news cycle and a rapidly mounting death toll, that notion was a welcome silver lining to the pandemic.
But it may have given some a false sense that the worst effects of climate change were being mitigated.
All of these extreme weather events can be linked to global warming, caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly from humans burning fossil fuels.
They’re grim reminders that the world has a much bigger existential crisis on its hands than Covid-19. And it will take a lot more than a few months of forgoing air and car travel to stop it.
“Climate change is not stopping because of lockdowns,” said Ilan Kelman, a professor of risk, resilience and global health at University College London. “The extreme weather which we are witnessing is not excessive in terms of the history of humanity … it is very much in line with what we would expect under climate change.”
Climate change is influencing extreme weather events
But Donald Trump might have you believe otherwise.
Earlier this week, the US President seemed to question whether climate change was fanning the flames raging up and down the West Coast — despite scientific evidence showing that global warming is increasing the odds in favor of extreme wildfire weather.
He also claimed it would soon start to get “cooler.”
From a president who has referred to global warming as a “hoax” in the past, it was yet another statement reflecting his climate denial.
Asked to respond to Trump’s comments, Imperial College London climate scientist Joeri Rogelj, a lead author on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, said he wasn’t sure how he could.
“Of course, we are in the Northern Hemisphere, so we are now entering autumn, and then it will be winter, so yes it will be ‘cooler’ again. But that is not what climate change is about,” Rogelj said.
“The IPCC has established this unequivocally, that the planet will continue to warm as long as we are emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and at present even with the small blip of Covid reductions, we are still emitting billions of tons,” Rogelj added.
Scientists agree that climate change is driving average global temperatures up, changing climatic conditions around the globe — how warm it is, how dry it is, how much rain falls — and that means changes to the weather patterns that we experience too.
Take forest fires, for example. There is a great deal of evidence that climate change results in “tinderbox conditions,” very extended dry and warm periods. So, when fires start, they tend to burn more intensely and cover wider areas.
Scientists say that warmer oceans and atmosphere are also to blame for the melting ice sheets and calving glaciers.
Lockdowns haven’t put a dent in the climate crisis
The climate change that we’re experiencing today — evidenced by extreme weather events like the West Coast wildfires — is the net result of our cumulative emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
So, even if annual carbon emissions go down in any given year, as they have during the pandemic, as long as we are adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the planet will continue to warm.
Meeting that goal means halving annual emissions by about 2030 — and then bringing them to zero within another 20 years. And even then, the world will not have halted climate change, it will only have stopped it from getting worse.
Rogelj, who has been studying the climate impact of Covid-19, describes lockdowns as a “temporary blip” on the radar.
“People have made a huge sacrifice, they have sacrificed their social lives, their family interactions their mobility and so on. And emissions have declined quite markedly because of that. But we also see that these emission reductions are very temporary,” said Rogelj, adding that they’re already going up again.
“And why is that? It’s because these emissions reductions were the result of changing or reducing our activities, but not the cause of any structural change of how our society actually works.”
Doing that will require a long-term transition and transformation of our society to low-carbon and renewable energy, from how we get around, to how we generate energy.
Kelman, whose book, “Disaster by Choice,” looks at how our actions turn natural hazards into catastrophes, says that though lockdowns may not have made a big impact on mitigating the climate crisis in the long term, they have shown that change is possible.
“We’ve been told for a long time that changing society overnight is not possible. What lockdown showed is that it is,” said Kelman.
But he warned that lockdowns are not a sustainable solution to curbing climate change, pointing to the economic, societal and social costs they’ve inflicted.
“This has been, to some extent, been a test run of the positives and negatives, the possibilities and the harm. What we need to ensure is that we are helping people, we are creating jobs, we are supporting livelihoods, at the same time as reducing all forms of consumption. And this should not happen overnight.”
Australia’s coronavirus epicenter records no new cases as the US and Western Europe struggle to contain the pandemic
Announcing the relaxation of restrictions at a news conference on Monday, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said starting on Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., Melbourne residents will be allowed to leave their homes and most businesses in the state can reopen with restrictions on the number of people.
“With 0 cases and so much testing, we are able to say that now is the time to open up. Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian who has stayed the course,” Andrews said.
The steep decline in cases has allowed the government to lift major social distancing measures that have been in place for weeks.
As cases began skyrocketing this summer, Andrews put in place the type of strict anti-epidemic measures that governments in Western Europe and the United States have been hesitant to enact out of fear of damaging the economy and trampling on civil liberties.
East Asian governments including those in China, South Korea and Taiwan have not needed to put in place such restrictions because early efforts to contain the virus focused on testing and contact tracing, combined with the readiness of their respective populations to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines, which helped keep the pandemic in check.
Andrews said Victoria was able to rein in the pandemic because of the public’s willingness to endure hardship, listen to the science and follow the rules.
“I could not be prouder than I am today to lead a state that has showed the courage, the compassion, and the character to get this job done. But it is not yet absolutely finished,” he said.
“We have to be vigilant in the weeks and months … until a vaccine comes, there is no normal. There is only Covid-normal.”
Under the relaxed measures, staff are allowed to immediately return to their businesses in order to prepare for customers and put in place anti-epidemic measures.
Some restrictions, including a 25-kilometer (15-mile) limit on travel and an internal border between Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne, will remain in place until November 8.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison congratulated the state for the drop in Covid-19 cases and lauded Victorians for the making “great progress in reducing the rate of Covid-19 infection.”
“They have played their part and sacrificed much in the pursuit of reaching those targets in the belief restrictions would be eased,” he said.
Morrison added that Victoria would open state borders by Christmas. They were closed as part of the federal government’s response to the pandemic.
Victoria and its capital Melbourne faced Australia’s worst outbreak of Covid-19 this Australian winter.
Andrews said Monday the government was not going to be “pushed by the loudest voices” to reopen before public health experts deemed it was safe to do so.
Andrews hinted earlier this month that authorities were considering lifting more restrictions if trends continued in the right direction. However, a small cluster of cases in Melbourne’s northern suburbs prompted him to put in place a “cautious pause” in order to test more than 4,000 residents, further delaying reopening.
Nearly all tests have come back negative. Andrews said health authorities can now rule out widespread community transmission.
“It was worth waiting to be sure,” he said.
A previous version of this story misstated Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews’ political affiliation. This has been corrected.
Democrats already angling to take out Ron Johnson in 2022
Johnson, a two-term senator who hasn’t said whether he’ll run again, has been an adamant defender of President Donald Trump — and Democrats think that record will not play well in the perennial battleground in 2022.
While an announcement eight days before the presidential election might rankle some in the party for sidetracking from an all-hands-on-deck attempt to oust President Donald Trump from the White House, the move gives Nelson a head start on other Democrats expected to flock to challenge Johnson in the weeks after the presidential election.
The early start could allow Nelson to take advantage of sky-high Democratic enthusiasm that’s translated into fundraising records across the country, which could wane after Nov. 3, especially if Joe Biden wins.
Other Democrats whose names are already circulating as possible candidates include Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry, who also served as the Democratic National Convention host committee finance chair. Lasry, the son of billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic bundler Marc Lasry, could quickly mount of a formidable, well-funded campaign.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who took on a national role speaking for Wisconsin in the wake of police shooting of Jacob Blake and the subsequent Kenosha riots, is another name in the mix, as well as state Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Nelson’s announcement coincides with an expected Monday confirmation vote on Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. Nelson criticized Johnson, who, after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this month, vowed to wear a “moon suit” to return to the Senate and cast a vote in favor of Barrett if needed.
“I think his record, I think his behavior and what he has done and what he has said — not just the last couple of years but for the last nine years — makes him very vulnerable,” Nelson said. “Ron Johnson is an unmitigated disaster and a conspiracy nut, among other qualities. Every time he opens his mouth he embarrasses himself and our state.”
Nelson said his county — about an hour-and-a-half north of Milwaukee — has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus, putting him on the frontlines of the pandemic as the state has undergone one of the most severe spikes in the nation.
Nelson assailed Johnson for recent remarks seeming to underplay the virus, as well as Johnson’s decision to attend a fundraiser while he awaited the results of a Covid-19 test. He later tested positive. Nelson said the senator was especially vulnerable electorally because he had voted against the first coronavirus relief package.
Nelson, who rolled out an announcement video on Monday, served as a Bernie Sanders delegate earlier this year. He argues he’s well-positioned to win statewide because he’s demonstrated he can win over voters in a key swing area. He was elected three times to the state assembly and elected three times as Outagamie county executive, most recently in April. The county, which voted twice for Barack Obama, swung to Trump in 2016, along with the rest of the state.
That year, Nelson ran unsuccessfully for an open seat in Congress, losing to now-Rep. Mike Gallagher by more than 20 points.
For his part, Johnson, first elected in 2010, has not announced his 2022 intentions, refusing to rule out any of three scenarios: retirement, reelection or a potential run for governor against Democratic incumbent Tony Evers. When he last ran for reelection in 2016, Johnson said it would be his final term in the Senate — but he backtracked last year.
Even if they retain control of the Senate in next week’s elections, the 2022 cycle will be a challenging one for the GOP. Two swing-state Republican senators, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have already said they will retire in 2022 rather than run for reelection. Also on the ballot in two years are Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who will be 89 years old on Election Day 2022.
If he does seek a third term, Democrats view Johnson as vulnerable because of his steady loyalty to Trump and controversial remarks about the Covid crisis, including downplaying the severity of the virus, even as Wisconsin hospitalizations have soared.
“We have unfortunately been snookered into this mass hysteria that isn’t even close to the real risk,” Johnson said in recent remarks to Wisconsin business leaders. “And so we’ve shut down our economy. We’ve had this economic devastation.”
Democrats have also cast Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, as hyper-partisan because of his role in releasing a conflict-of-interest report on Biden’s son, Hunter, and attempting to bring outsize attention on his business dealings overseas. Democrats have also hammered Johnson for comments he’s made about everything from outsourcing to calling media coverage of coronavirus “panic porn.” He also drew a rebuke from Dr. Anthony Fauci for comparing deaths caused by coronavirus to traffic accidents: “We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways,” Johnson remarked.
Since January, Johnson’s favorability numbers have hovered in the 30s, according to the Marquette Law School poll, under-performing Trump, Evers and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
“He has defended Donald Trump to the hilt,” Nelson added, predicting that would come back to haunt Johnson.
But Republicans point back to 2016, when Democrats predicted Johnson was headed for sure defeat, only to watch him overcome former Sen. Russ Feingold, the liberal icon he had ousted six years earlier.
“He’s been a dead man walking two times before, and it just never really sticks when it comes down to the ballot box,” says Brian Reisinger, a former Johnson adviser, also referencing Johnson’s 2010 victory. “He’s the sort of person that it becomes fashionable for the Democrats and for the national Beltway media to bash him because he sticks his neck out there.”
Manchester Leaders Have Until 12pm To Accept The Government’s Coronavirus Deal Or Have Tier 3 Restrictions Imposed Unilaterally
3 min read
Leaders in Greater Manchester have been issued an ultimatum to accept the government’s offer of coronavirus support by noon on Tuesday or have tier 3 restrictions imposed on them.
Writing to the region’s mayors and council leaders, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that if the deadline was not met he would “advise the prime minister that despite our best endeavours we’ve been unable to reach agreement.”
The letter was sent just hours after the most recent meeting with Manchester representatives ended without progress, marking the end of the 10th day of talks with the government.
It is understood that the prime minister will impose the strictest tier of coronavirus restrictions on the region later this week if an agreement is not reached by 12 pm on Tuesday.
Mr Jenrick said local leaders had been “so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control”.
He continued: “The deteriorating public health situation in Greater Manchester means that we need to take action urgently. We have held discussions in good faith with local leaders for 10 days in order to ensure that the measures put in place were tailored to the local community.
“We have offered an extensive package of support for local people and businesses, proportionate to the approach we have taken in the Liverpool city region and Lancashire and in addition to the wider national support.”
He added that Great Manchester has been offered £22 million to support the area’s 2.8 million people throughout the additional measures, and ministers were “open” to discussing further support.
But the city’s mayor Andy Burnham accused the government of “trying to respond to a pandemic on the cheap.”
Many local officials have expressed frustration that the sum offered to Manchester is much less than other regions, with Lancashire and Merseyside getting £42 million and £44 million respectively despite having smaller local populations.
Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley, Mr Burnham said: “We’re in a crisis, and people need support in a crisis, but it does appear there’s been an abrupt change since the summer where it’s the opposite.”
Asked if he would oppose the restrictions were they imposed once the deadline passes, Mr Burnham said he would “accept that decision” as it was the “government’s prerogative”.
“But I would say to them at this point, are they sure that that is a wise thing to do because this isn’t just Greater Manchester’s problem,” he continued.
“Everywhere could end up in tier 3 over the winter and if they imposed tier 3 on places without providing that support… it will be the poorest people that will suffer the most as a result of that.
“And I would say to them that the government will be at risk of losing what public support remains for the approach that they’re taking.”
But speaking on LBC, business minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The important thing is to focus on saving lives”.
He said the government had been “negotiating in good faith for 10 days” but there were now fears that “there will be no ICU beds left in greater Manchester by the second week of November.”
He also confirmed to Sky News that “there’s more to come if [Andy Burnham] wants to negotiate”.
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