Climate of the Environment: COVID-19 ‘Haunting Humans’ For Years to Come

April 15, 2020

My cell-phone tells me it’s Wednesday, so we’ll go with that, despite the real fact it feels like yesterday, or a week ago. In a convoluted era of surreal craziness, this is by far one nice portrayal of our human predicament (humble h/t Daily Kos):

Beyond that brief bit of joy, the big picture don’t look so touching and heartfelt — a study published today by ProPublica: ‘As of Tuesday afternoon, the United States had logged more than 592,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 24,000 deaths, the most in the world, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. But the official COVID-19 death count may, at least for now, be missing fatalities that are occurring outside of hospitals, data and interviews show. Cities are increasingly showing signs of Americans succumbing to the coronavirus in their own beds‘ (link).

Here locally, we’re also moving ahead — according to Merced County Dept. of Public Health, as of 10 AM today, we had added two new COVID-19 cases since yesterday, which moved our total to 76, and still ‘just‘ three deaths. Also two people were affixed to the recovery category, now with 26 in the coming-out-of-it zone.
And 47 of those 76 cases are considered ‘active,’ which signifies people actually still sick with the virus.
Along with that, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said today it could be next year, 2021, before concerts or sporting events could take place — a hard ride to life before: ‘“It’s difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands anytime soon, so I think we should be prepared for that this year,” he told Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room. “Until there’s either a vaccine, some sort of pharmaceutical intervention, or herd immunity, the science is the science. And public health officials have made very clear we have miles and miles to walk before we can be back in those environments.”

And of the environment, and its warming in regards to COVID-19, a coule of new examples and how we’re even more fucked — from Scientific American this past Sunday:

preliminary estimate from NOAA finds that levels of atmospheric methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, have hit an all-time high.

Methane is roughly 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and while it stays in the atmosphere for only around a decade, as opposed to centuries, like CO2, its continued rise poses a major challenge to international climate goals.

“Here we are. It’s 2020, and it’s not only not dropping. It’s not level. In fact, it’s one of the fastest growth rates we’ve seen in the last 20 years,” said Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at Duke University.

Even more troubling, 2019 saw the second-largest single-year leap in two decades.
However, this figure may change, as preliminary estimates have trended high, said Ed Dlugokencky, a research chemist at NOAA.
The final numbers will likely be unveiled in November after a more detailed analysis.

“We’re still waiting to see what the final number is going to be, and it’s going to be many months before we know that,” Dlugokencky said.
“But the fact that methane is increasing means it’s further contributing to climate change.”

And this, too, via the Guardian this morning:

There was a dramatic melting of Greenland’s ice sheet in the summer of 2019, researchers have confirmed, in a study that reveals the loss was largely down to a persistent zone of high pressure over the region.

The ice sheet melted at a near record rate in 2019, and much faster than the average of previous decades.
Figures have suggested that in July alone surface ice declined by 197 gigatonnes — equivalent to about 80 million Olympic swimming pools.

Now experts have examined the level of melting in more detail, revealing what drove it.
Crucially, the team note, the high pressure conditions lasted for 63 of the 92 summer days in 2019, compared with an average of just 28 days between 1981 and 2010.
A similar situation was seen in 2012, a record bad year for melting of the ice sheet.

“This melt event is a good alarm signal that we urgently need to change our way of living to hold [back] global warming because it is likely that the IPCC projections could be too optimistic for [the] Arctic,” said Dr Xavier Fettweis, co-author of the research from the University of Liege, adding that the atmospheric conditions were unlikely to be down to natural climatic variability and could be driven by global heating.

And how does COVID-19 contribute to obtaining a handle on climate change? Not so good — a lengthy, detailed piece at Financial Times on Monday, with charts and graphs on pollution declines due to the virus, reveals the bottom line as slowing/stopping the  momentum on combating the climate crisis. Right now, the overwhelming ‘crisis‘ is COVID-19 — main high points:

All over the world, pollution levels are dropping fast.
The lockdowns triggered by the pandemic, with about 2.6bn people living under restrictions, are starting to have an impact not only on the virus but also on the planet — even if the effect is only temporary and comes at a huge social and human cost.

Yet despite the potential short-term dip in emissions, there is a risk that the pandemic — which is likely to dominate debate for months or even years to come — will overshadow environmental concerns.
Climate talks have already been delayed and new policy initiatives postponed.
The convention centre that was set to host the UN climate talks in Glasgow in November has been converted into a hospital for coronavirus patients.
Governments and world leaders have attention for only one crisis right now.

“It’s going to put a pause on anything climate related,” says Glen Peters, research director at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo.
“In the policy discussions for the next 6-12 months, climate is probably not going to be mentioned, it is going to be about coronavirus and economic recovery.”

But in a world shaped by pandemic, climate change now appears a more distant threat.
The coronavirus outbreak has delayed most of the big climate events and policy announcements expected this year.
Ms Von der Leyen’s proposal for a new Climate Law, which would commit Europe to net zero emissions by 2050, has been bogged down in a parliament that is now meeting virtually, and seems likely to be delayed.

Regardless of what the T-Rump blubbers, COVID-19 will supposedly be around awhile:

COVID-19 is likely to be around for years to come, haunting humans as either a yearly flu-like illness or as a virus that occasionally resurfaces following years of dormancy, a new Harvard modeling study argues.

It’s unlikely that COVID-19 will go the way of its closest cousin, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which was eradicated by an intense public health effort following a brief pandemic, the researchers said.

Instead, COVID-19 is expected to be an ongoing fact of life, with the duration of human immunity determining exactly how often the virus returns.

If immunity to the COVID-19 coronavirus is not permanent, the virus will likely enter into regular circulation — just like the influenza virus or the beta coronaviruses responsible for the common cold, the model showed.

Nice turn of words, ‘haunting humans,’ or a serenade of soothing, mysterious music…

Another evening…

(Illustration: ‘A Break in Reality’ by Xetobyte, found here).

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