Newsdesk – March 20

The economic impact of coronavirus has rippled out well beyond China’s borders. Business is slow in Bangkok’s Chinatown, which would normally be flooded with tourists [Photo Credit: Getty Images / AFP / M. Antonov]
China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas polluter, has no plans to cut its emissions anytime soon. Under its Paris Agreement pledges, Beijing has promised to hit peak emissions by 2030. So for the next decade, they’re only going to go up. The huge coal-powered economy, though, has slashed emissions by 25%, and surprisingly due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  In fact, Wuhan, the 11 million-strong Hubei province city at the center of the outbreak has been on lockdown since late January.  As a result, businesses and factories in the province are shuttered, and hundreds of millions of people across the country rendered immobile by sweeping travel restrictions, the atmosphere above China in NASA satellite images appears virtually clean of nitrous oxide emissions. The aviation industry is also predicting extreme losses. Amy Jaffe, director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Energy Security and Climate Change program, said that the virus is prompting us to change our habits in ways that could make a longer-term contribution to climate protection — working from home, video conferencing, working shorter weeks or staggering office hours to reduce traffic. Still, the biggest share of emissions saved in China over recent weeks comes from the slowdown in manufacturing, and that’s something few politicians would advocate as official policy beyond an immediate crisis. After the 2008 financial crash, “which also led to a dramatic drop-off in China’s emissions and marked improvement in air quality because export industries went into freefall.  Unfortunately enough, “The only time we see emissions significantly reduce is when countries or the globe goes into recession,” says Jon Erickson, an ecological economist at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute who studies emerging infectious disease vectors in relation to climate change. Recessions are good for the climate, but bad for the people. Nevertheless, according to Jon Erickson, an ecological economist at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute who studies emerging infectious disease vectors in relation to climate change, “If we truly treat climate as an emergency, as we are treating this pandemic as an emergency, we have to have a similar level of international coordination,” Erickson says, starting with rapid scaling-back of fossil fuel investments – DW Made for Minds

  • The ‘climate doomers’ preparing for society to fall apart – BBC News
  • Coronavirus ‘Really Not the Way You Want To Decrease Emissions’ – Inside Climate News
  • More companies want to be “carbon neutral.” What does that mean? – Vox
  • Are Frequent Flier Miles Killing the Planet? – The New York Times
  • Mandatory Composting in New York? It Could Happen – The New York Times
  • Coronavirus prompts Thunberg to move Friday climate rallies online – Reuters
  • Cashmere and climate change threaten nomadic life – BBC News

A makeshift emergency unit at the Brescia hospital, in northern Italy, on Thursday. [Photo Credit Luca Bruno/Associated Press]
Italy’s Health Care System Groans Under – a Warning to the World.  In less than three weeks, the coronavirus has overloaded the health care system all over northern Italy. The Lombardy region has been turned into a grim glimpse of what awaits countries if they cannot slow the spread of the virus and ‘‘flatten the curve’’ of new cases — allowing the sick to be treated without swamping the capacity of hospitals. At this point, ordinary doctors and nurses are being forced to make extraordinary decisions about who may live and who may die. In response to the crisis, Massimo Puoti, the head of infectious medicine at Milan’s Niguarda hospital, one of the largest in Lombardy, said the goal was to limit infections, stave off the epidemic and learn more about the nature of the enemy.  “We need time.” Draconian measures have been taken- restricting movement and closing all stores except for pharmacies, groceries and other essential services. In addition, doctors’ extraordinary positions are causing them to shift to wartime footing.  They face questions of triage as surgeries are canceled, respirators become rare resources, and officials propose converting abandoned exposition spaces into vast intensive care ward. Clearly, the situation is overwhelming for the health care system, but Flavia Petrini, the president of the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care, stressed that “In a context of grave shortage of health resources,” intensive care should be given to “patients with the best chance of success” and those with the “best hope of life” should be prioritized.   Romano Prodi, a former Italian prime minister and president of the European Union commission, said, “… I think that coronavirus is already also an American problem,” adding that,  because of the difference in the health care system, “it may be more serious than the European one” – The New York Times

Pierre-Louis Le Tolguenec, second from right, in a T-shirt at a Rue Montorgueil terrace in Paris last month. [Phote Credit: Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times]
In Paris, Cafe Terraces Are an Environmental Battleground. “It’s a French cultural habit to be on a terrace in summer as well as in winter,” said Mr. Le Tolguenec, a 25-year-old engineer.  it’s a little bit too much,”  he said. It is true, the heat lamps have flooded France’s outdoor cafe terraces for over a decade, making sitting outside whatever the weather not only possible, but comfortable. But the phenomenon could be nearing an end as calls to ban heated terraces have gained traction in the run-up to France’s municipal elections this Sunday, against a backdrop of growing environmental concerns. However, the outdoor terraces not only account for a significant portion of cafe and restaurant revenues, but also are a symbol of what is known as “the French art of living.” “Removing the heaters would result in removing the Parisian terraces,” said Sylvie Da Costa, the manager of Cafe du Centre on Rue Montorgueil. And Marcel Benezet, a representative of the GNI-HCR, the country’s main union for cafes, hotels and restaurants, also wants to preserve the terrace aspect of Parisian culture. “Given the economic situation we’re in right now, I don’t think it is the time to introduce a new constraint. The first thing that tourists do when they arrive in Paris is to order a drink on a terrace,” he said. In a city that last year experienced record-breaking temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, however, the terrace culture seems at odds with increasing concerns about climate change. Nor is the ban the only pro-environment move being considered. As much as the ban could potentially benefit the environment, cafe owners argue that since most of the heaters run on electricity, which in France largely comes from nuclear energy, they have low carbon footprints. But environmental activists point to the impact of nuclear waste and say the heaters are still a significant waste of energy. “It’s typical of a luxury that we can no longer afford,” said Jacques Boutault, the Green party mayor of Paris’s 2nd arrondissement, who has been crusading against heated terraces for over a decade. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to ban heated terraces, the proposed ban, once considered a Green fantasy, has also become part of the public debate in the run-up to the city’s municipal elections. Agnès Buzyn, Mr. Macron’s candidate in Paris, concludes that “We’re not going to ban all heated terraces, because it’s the soul of Paris to be at a cafe terrace”- The New York Times