In a matter of weeks, our community drastically changed to adapt to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This crisis has affected all aspects of our lives, from how we work to how we interact with friends and family. As we work to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community, it is important to recognize the interconnected aspects of public and environmental health. The shared challenges between the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change crisis provide similar lessons we can apply to our fight against climate change.
Response time: We have seen that a quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in saving lives and protecting the public from an out-of-control outbreak. Though some effects of climate change may not become apparent for many years, it is still critical to act now to prevent worst-case scenarios.
Inequities: The communities dying at higher rates from COVID-19—Black and Latinx communities—are also some of the most at-risk communities facing climate change threats. In King County, the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases is higher for nearly all communities of color than whites, with the highest among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Hispanics/Latinx. These communities are also particularly vulnerable to climate change risks ranging from disproportionate exposure to air pollution to more frequent flooding.
Permanent change: The way we have shifted our lives due to the pandemic will cause permanent changes to how we operate our society moving forward. This is also true with climate change. We must prepare now for some of the permanent changes we could face in Washington state, including ocean acidification and sea level rise.
- As of August 4, 600,000 people have died globally from COVID-19, projecting an annualized rate of 14 deaths per 100,000 people.
- In the next 40 years, 14 per 100,000 are expected to die around the world as a result of climate change.
- By the end of the century, there is expected to be 73 deaths per 100,000 globally as a result of climate change.
In other words, by 2060 climate change will be just as deadly as COVID-19. And by 2100 it will be five times as deadly.
The City of Burien is creating a Climate Action Plan that will focus on strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop goals for future sustainability projects in the city, and provide government- and community-led actions to create a sustainable Burien. If you’d like to be a part of the planning, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Data retrieved on August 4, 2020