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Journal Article

Corona and the climate: a comparison of two emergencies


Vinke,  Kira
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Gabrysch,  Sabine
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Paoletti,  Emanuela
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Rockström,  Johan
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Schellnhuber,  Hans Joachim
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Vinke, K., Gabrysch, S., Paoletti, E., Rockström, J., Schellnhuber, H. J. (2020): Corona and the climate: a comparison of two emergencies. - Global Sustainability, 3, e25.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_24397
Within a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic caused by Severe Acute Respiratory SyndromeCoronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has brought the everyday lives of billions of people to a halt, indu-cing great human suffering and unexpected economic shocks. Institutional deficits, including alack of preparedness and hesitant decision-making, are exposed as the crisis unfolds. As the par-allels between this global health emergency and the climate emergency become apparent, wereflect on how global society can manage shared risks and avert emergencies.The formula that captures why the term‘emergency’is appropriate in the context of climatechange can also be applied to the corona pandemic:Emergency =Risk ×Urgency =probability ×Damage × reactiontime (τ) / interventionTime (E=R×U=p×D×τ/T).Asatestcaseforemergency prevention and management, the current pandemic situation provides valuableinsights into climate change action and, more broadly, social susceptibility and resilience toshocks. In this article, we draw parallels between the two emergencies and outline lessonsfrom the corona crisis that can help manage the even more daunting challenge of anthropogenicglobal warming. Based on this comparison, we discuss the idea that the variables of theemergency formula can be influenced by: mitigation, lowering the probability for damage tooccur (pmitig); adaptation, limiting the experience of adverse effects of damages (Dadapt); goodgovernance, to be able to efficiently use our reaction time (τgovern); and science, which canincrease human perception of the remaining intervention time (Tscience). A contingency planfor an emergency thus constitutes the following elements: Econt=pmitig×Dadapt×τgovern/Tscience. We present our analysis in four steps: diagnosis, prognosis, therapy and rehabilitation.