Coronavirus
(Credit: Macau Photo Agency/Unsplash)

Climate, coffee, cocoa, Corona

As evidence mounts that we've ignored opportunities to prepare for the infectious onslaught that's now upon us – not enough hospital beds, test kits, or even alcohol swabs – let's think about the 30 years of warning signs we've had to halt, or at least cope with, climate change.


Let's start with the lightweight ones – how climate change is nibbling at the edges of affluence.

These stories abound, not so much because they are the most dire climate impacts, but, in part, because people in the journalism biz struggle to make immense stories like this one relevant to the lives of readers and viewers:

  • About 50% of the land now devoted to growing your morning cup o' joe is expected to be unavailable by the year 2100.
  • Grape harvest records from France's Bordeaux region date back nearly 700 years. They show grape harvests took place two weeks later back then.
  • Pests and fungi spread by rising temperatures may doom a breakfast staple, the Cavendish banana, within decades.
  • Extreme weather caught the blame for the failure of Italy's signature crop, olives, in 2019. Italy was a net importer of olives last year.
  • Skiing: Lack of snowpack from the Rockies to the Alps is shortening seasons, and threatening some resorts with extinction.
  • Pond hockey, long a birthright in much of the cold weather world, is now imperiled.
  • Summer flounder is moving north, to the chagrin of middle Atlantic sport fishers.
  • Climate concern is growing among hunters and sport fishers. There are 34 million of them in the US, with reasons to care about climate.
Pond hockey

Pond hockey (Credit: Taylor Friehl/Unsplash)

Climate impacts in our food or sporting and cultural events have a direct parallel to the impact of Coronavirus in cancelling pro sports seasons or gatherings like Coachella. And, like the pandemic, they're a herald of more serious problems to come.

But after perusing all these stories, I try to place myself in a South Pacific island village, awaiting inundation from sea level rise. Or a coastal village in Alaska, Louisiana, or Bangladesh. Places where climate change doesn't mean a loss of pond hockey or Bordeaux, it means a loss of everything.

Or try a less remote place: Unheard-of wildfires leveling California towns and Australian cities; more intense typhoons and hurricanes obliterating islands in the Philippines or Bahamas; streets awash in Norfolk or Miami.

Flooding sea level rise

(Credit: Piyush Priyank/Unsplash)

Or more universal consequences: Mass extinctions, acidified oceans, violent and lethal weather extremes, and more. These are things that may not cause the stock market to tank (yet).

Maybe – just maybe – the Coronavirus disaster offers a powerful lesson that could be of use in battling against the climate disaster.

President Trump's thorough disdain for science and scientific expertise has been on full display in his declarations and assurances on the pandemic. Criticism that the U.S. is poorly prepared to test and treat the victims fits a familiar pattern as well.

Is it too much to hope that Americans, as the song once vainly hoped, won't be fooled again?

That scientists not only can be trusted, but have to be trusted? And that the kind of drop-everything push on climate can prevent bigger, costlier, deadlier problems later on?

I've become far too cynical to think we can count on this.

But maybe.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His views do not represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences. Contact him at pdykstra@ehn.org or on Twitter at @Pdykstra.

There are still a lot of unknowns with the current pandemic. But we can learn lessons about failing to prepare.

Climate change impacts babies in utero

A new study has found that climate change can impact babies while they are still in the womb.

Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Sydney floods force tens of thousands of residents to flee homes

With summer in full swing and daily temperatures peaking well over 100 degrees in the Coachella Valley, a local lawmaker is hoping to pass a few proposals this year to address extreme heat conditions in California.

Summer in America is becoming hotter, longer and more dangerous

Summer temperatures in Reno have risen 10.9 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, since 1970, making it the fastest warming city in the nation during the hottest months, according to an analysis by the nonprofit research group Climate Central.

Stuart P. M. Mackintosh: Don’t let SCOTUS undo decades of progress on climate change

Elect a green Congress, and we can begin to reverse the shortsighted destructive judicial activism of the SCOTUS six, and the U.S. can quickly rebalance and reorient our society and economy towards a more equitable, prosperous, sustainable, green tomorrow.

Africa insurers urged to focus more on climate change

Despite contributing the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is most exposed to climate change impact. Africa’s insurance industry has been challenged to play a proactive role in addressing the climate change agenda.

State bills aim to protect workers in extreme heat conditions

With summer in full swing and daily temperatures peaking well over 100 degrees in the Coachella Valley, a local lawmaker is hoping to pass a few proposals this year to address extreme heat conditions in California.

Thomas O. McGarity: The Supreme Court’s devastating blow to the planet

The Supreme Court’s insistence that Congress focus with laser-like precision on every conceivable issue that may come up in the distant future will make it far more difficult for Congress to enact protective legislation.

From our Newsroom
environmental injustice

Centering biodiversity and social justice in overhauling the global food system

“The food system is the single largest economic sector causing the transgressing of planetary boundaries.”

Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

Noted ecologist John Harte offers a fresh take on the dire topic of climate change.

Colorado fracking

Colorado is the first state to ban PFAS in oil and gas extraction

The toxic “forever chemicals” are used in fracking wells across the country.

gun control

Peter Dykstra: Gun and climate change delusions

Millions here suffer from twin hallucinations: Guns don’t cause our mass shootings, and the climate isn’t changing.

Op-ed: An engine for social justice leads the way to change

Engine for social justice leads to change

Virginia Organizing's 27-year history as a role model for The Daily Climate

Using comedy to combat climate change

Using comedy to combat climate change

The Climate Comedy Cohort aims to help comedians infuse climate activism into their creative work.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.