How was the Covid-19 pandemic communicated by different leaders in their televised speeches and why does it matter?
by Hadas Emma Kedar
Six months have passed since nations of the world have locked-down against the spread of Covid-19. After its classification as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020, leaders have addressed their nations to declare an emergency. These “addressing the nation” speeches are worth examining, as they deal with the same crisis at the same point of time, and it seems fair to assert that a great deal of a society’s behavior stems from its leader’s public expressions. For example, terms like war, enemy or discipline might encourage anxiety and violence among citizens, while challenge, strength and solidarity might encourage emotional strength and decrease anxiety.
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 common explanation for delayed mitigation action concerning the climate crisis cites the fact that the response of climate policies is only visible on a decadal timespan – thereby affecting neither quarterly profits nor parliamentary terms. COVID19 on the other hand only has a knowledge delay of up to 2 weeks, before infection events reveal their effects.
I would like to explore how these different dynamics of action and response play out and what they mean for the politicisation of science.
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.