Behind the Eight Ball

posted by Steve Guyer on Tuesday, May 19, 2020

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization characterized the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic. Previous pandemics have included the 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu), the 2009 influenza pandemic (H1N1), and HIV/AIDS.

The virus that causes COVID-19 was officially named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Although most coronaviruses aren't dangerous, the World Health Organization identified this new type of coronavirus, one of seven types of coronavirus, in early 2020. Others coronaviruses include those that cause severe diseases like sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The other coronaviruses cause most of the colds that affect us during the year but aren’t a serious threat for otherwise healthy people.

Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s, and is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. At least once in almost everyone’s life, you will get a coronavirus infection such as the common cold. Anyone can come down with a coronavirus infection at any time.

As with any virus, you can’t see them, smell them, or hear them. They silently invade our lives without warning and can lead to dire consequences. Initially denial, procrastination, and misinformation exacerbated the consequences of Covid-19.  Yet, the science has been clear and the predictions numerous for decades that a novel coronavirus would emerge creating a worldwide pandemic.

The challenging circumstances posed by Covid-19 are certainly not easy to resolve. We find ourselves in unprecedented times instituting mitigation measures including social distancing, shelter in place, school closures and business closures. We are already experiencing severe economic disruption, and starting to identify measures necessary to prevent the further spread of the virus as well as measures that will be required to restore the economy. Although I am confident that we have the means and resolve to move past the challenges posed by Covid-19, to put it succinctly, we are “behind the eight ball”.

However, we need to learn from Covid-19. The Iowa Environmental Council believes that science-based results-oriented measures are necessary in order to protect and preserve Iowa’s environment. It is with that resolve that we collaborate and advocate for clean water, clean energy, and a healthy climate.

When we use or burn fossil fuels, greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and methane are produced and emitted. The high concentration of these greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are an “ecovirus”. This ecovirus is causing climate change. As with any virus, you can’t see the greenhouse gases, smell them, or hear them. They are silently invading our lives without warning and will lead to dire consequences. Decades worth of denial, procrastination, and misinformation are exacerbating the consequences of climate change.  Yet, the science is clear and the predictions numerous that climate change has the potential to be life altering. As with a pandemic, the climate change consequences would be worldwide ignoring country boundaries and altering societal and economic norms. The challenges posed by climate change are certainly not easy to resolve. However, we have the means and resolve to move past the challenges posed by climate change.

Climate change mitigation measures for electric generation include eliminating electric generation from burning coal and natural gas, increasing solar and wind generation, energy efficiency, and battery storage. In the building and transportation sectors, mitigation measures involve electrification and reducing or eliminating the use of fossil fuels. Carbon sinks are also a form of climate mitigation through reforestation, and agriculture can mitigate climate change through regenerative agriculture.

We are already experiencing severe economic disruption from climate change, with the damage caused by increased flooding, more frequent and severe storms, and changes to rainfall and temperature patterns. Antidotally, several insurance companies have recognized the risk posed by continuing to burn fossil fuels and announced they will no longer provide coverage to utility companies that continue to burn coal.

Unlike Covid-19, we know what causes climate change and have identified the measures necessary to mitigate climate change. Reducing and eliminating the burning of fossil fuels is a readily available vaccine to address this “ecovirus”. As we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Iowa Environmental Council will continue to advocate for actions and policies so that climate change doesn’t become a situation where we find ourselves “behind the eight ball”.

  1. carbon pollution
  2. clean energy
  3. climate change
  4. energy efficiency
  5. healthy lands
  6. public health
  7. renewable energy
  8. solar power
  9. wind power

About The Author

Steve Guyer joins IEC as the Energy and Climate Policy Specialist, bringing years of experience and leadership in the energy field. Since 2008 Steve has owned and lead GWA International, a solar installation company based in Altoona that has designed and installed solar systems on the federal cou ... read more