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Pandemic parallels climate change

Pandemic parallels climate change

I never understood climate change denial until COVID-19 hit.

As COVID-19 began to spread in early 2020, I was skeptical. The early news reports seemed conclusive. The reactions of governments seemed drastic. And I didn’t want to believe that this virus was going to demand that my life radically change.

As I accepted, by mid-March, what a big deal COVID-19 would be, and how much my work and personal life would need to shift, I realized that the way I had been feeling about COVID-19 was how many people feel about climate change. Sometimes the news seems inconclusive (or just ignores the problem). If government took the issue seriously, it would impose drastic measures. And the behavioral changes it would demand of us are so onerous that it is far easier to disbelieve.

There are other parallels as well. Both COVID-19 and climate change are caused by invisible forces (a miniscule virus or miniscule gas particles). Both operate with a time delay (for COVID-19, several days; for climate change, several decades). Both act as one of a number of factors influencing our lives, so it is hard to take their severity seriously.

Those of us who did come to believe in COVID-19 radically changed our behaviors. We followed the governor’s directives even when they seemed onerous. We modified our routines, got used to wearing masks, moved our socializing outdoors and physically distanced. Many did not join us — individuals and businesses flouted health precautions, while elected officials politicized those precautions and cast doubt on well-grounded science. Yet the collective action of even a portion of the population kept everyone safer.

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