While the coronavirus pandemic represents the most immediate, and very significant challenge to the world, the impact of climate change on the planet arguably represents a bigger long-term challenge for humanity. Evidence of the negative impact of human activity on the planet’s ecosystem has become increasingly visible over recent years, through phenomenon such as a rise in global temperatures, the shrinking of the polar ice cap and glaciers throughout the world, and the increasing regular occurrence of extreme weather events, such as the devastating bush fires that occurred in Australia earlier in 2020.
There appear to be an increasing awareness of the need for urgent change to address the climate crisis, and the Extinction Rebellion movement, and Greta Thunberg has played a very significant role in advocating the need for immediate, significant action. The purpose of this blog is not to outline the various causes of the climate crisis, or the multiple, diverse actions that are necessary to address it. Instead, the aim of this blog is to highlight changes that may positively impact on the climate crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
A significant factor making a negative contribution to the climate crisis is work-related travel, whether that involves commuting to and from work, or business travel undertaken by workers in carrying out their jobs. Statistics on work-related travel suggest that a large proportion of workers undertake considerable amounts of such travel, whether that involves extended commutes from home to work and back, regular car work-related car journeys, on inter-continental flying. An enormous amount of greenhouse gas is produced by all of this travel activity, making a negative contribution to the planetary ecosystem.
This travel activity has grown over recent years and decades, despite many developments in computer and communication technology making home-based, and remote working increasingly possible. Such advances in technologies include smartphones, the miniaturisation of laptop computers, WiFi, video-conferencing technologies, document sharing tools, social media platforms, and much more.
For many reasons, workers, and employers have been somewhat reluctant to fully embrace this potential, evidenced by the very modest proportion of workers who work remotely, or from home, for more than one or two days per week. The restrictions on movement beyond the home and need for social distancing which have been implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in the potential of these technologies being rapidly embraced. Without underplaying the challenges of working remotely full time, such as social isolation, people, and employers may be positively surprised by the capability of these technologies to allow ongoing work, communication, and collaboration.
Thus, a hopefully positive outcome of the coronavirus crisis is that it allows people, and organizations to more fully appreciate the capability and functionality of computer and communication technologies to facilitate homeworking and remote communication, and as a consequence, result in a positive response to the climate change crisis through reducing the amount of work-related travel that people need to undertake.
So, perhaps in the long term it will be seen that the coronavirus, rather that Greta Thunberg, has been more of a catalyst for positive change to address the climate change crisis.