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26 Mar 2020, 14:00
Benjamin Wehrmann

Nobody can be happy about any positive climate effect now - German climate researcher

Frankfurter Rundschau

Emissions reductions due to the coronavirus crisis cannot be considered good news, according to climate researcher Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). "Nobody can be happy about any positive climate effect now, since the price we're paying for this is unbelievably high. That's due to a collapsing economy, the individual and social costs and especially to the human suffering caused by this pandemic," Schellnhuber told Frankfurter Rundschau, adding there was "no other way that is more expensive to save CO2." He called on policymakers not to let environmental action policies such as the EU's Green Deal fall behind, as measures to contain the virus and its economic impact take precedence on political agendas.

Schellnhuber said the coronavirus crisis offered valuable lessons for governments on how to deal with the climate crisis. "The main lesson is that experts should be listened to," he said, adding that climate change could follow a course similar to the coronavirus outbreak in that the development spirals out of political control regardless of national borders. "Science can prove this and we should start taking it as seriously as the corona pandemic,” he said, urging that "action is needed before things escalate and not only once we're right in the middle of it." Schellnhuber warned the EU's Green Deal must not fall victim to the virus and suggested policymakers consider a "Climate-Corona-Deal" that establishes a balance of interests between older and younger parts of the population. As younger people currently heed restrictions to quell the outbreak and protect vulnerable groups such as pensioners, older people should show solidarity with the next generation and work on preserving ecosystems for the future.  

The virus's outbreak and the subsequent political response has triggered an abrupt halt of industrial production in Germany and many other countries around the world, with emissions from industry, transport and other sectors rapidly dwindling accordingly. The idea of a green stimulus package to revive economic activity in accordance with environmental and climate targets after the outbreak has already been flaunted by Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA) over fears that the crisis could overshadow other important policy areas.

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