Flying is bad for the climate – this is an uncontested fact. However, air traffic is necessary for weather forecasts, as airplanes send live data to weather stations. COVID-19 has caused a massive decline in air travel, hereby affecting the quality of weather forecasts.
A few days ago, at the end of March, it snowed! Having never experienced snow this late in Hamburg and with the knowledge that 2019 was the second warmest year on record after 2016, my first thought was: this must be the direct cooling effect due to the COVID-19 induced industrial shutdown.
I felt a strange sense of righteousness, as if all climate change skeptics and politicians could now no longer deny the link between economic growth and global warming. This is of course an extremely oversimplified analysis; it is impossible to link two unexpected snow days in Hamburg with a global slowing down in industrial production . Moreover, climate change is a statistically significant variation in “average weather” over a period of 30 years, such that we cannot make any scientifically sound connections between a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions lasting but a few months and global warming.
Nevertheless, the economic shutdown has led to some directly observable environmental benefits.
During my research stay in Stellenbosch, South Africa, I came across an interesting arts project on climate change, which was installed during the cultural festival “Woordfees”.
A note on the wall invites onlookers to participate: to illustrate or write about what or who they would miss the most if our climate completely collapsed. Another note asked to describe fond memories of nature.
All around, people posted little notes and drawings, all of which gave interesting insights into their perceptions of climate change, especially their fears.
In a comment for the Media Watch Blog, Michael Brüggemann explains why the imagination of positive climate futures, in terms of specific technical and social innovations, is vital for sustainable engagement against climate change. Read the blog post (in German) here.
Kürzlich gab es mal wieder eine deutsche Talkshow mit prominenter Hamburger Professorenbeteiligung. Hans von Storch, mein Kollege an der Universität Hamburg und ehemaliger Leiter des Instituts für Küstenforschung am Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, saß in der „Hart aber fair“-Sendung von Frank Plasberg zum Thema Klimapolitik. Drum herum die üblichen Verdächtigen: ein Klima-Aktivist, eine Grünen-Politikerin, ein konservativer Publizist und eine Schauspielerin; eine Zusammenfassung gibt es bei Spiegel Online. In seinem (bald von Plasberg unterbrochenen) Eingangsstatement hebt von Storch die Bedeutung technischer Innovationen hervor, um die globalen Emissionen zu reduzieren.* Das ist eine gute Idee. Damit ist es aber nicht getan.