With a series of earth satellite images, the global community was surprised to see the clear and clean surface of the planet. Despite causing a serious impact on world economy, the pandemic had given our mother nature a break time and made the earth clean again.
In spite of the unexpected news, Dr. Chi-Ming Peng, General Manager of Weather Risk was worried that retaliatory consumption and economic activities post-pandemic would worsen the environmental pollution.
The “weather expert” Dr. Peng, who obtains the first personal weather forecast license in Taiwan, has more than 170 thousand followers watching weather forecast every day on his Facebook fan page, “Weather Expert Chi-Ming Peng”. His forecast is the second most used weather reference on the news preceded by the Central Weather Bureau. Meanwhile, Weather Risk also serves as weather consultant for many technologies and insurance companies. During the exclusive interview with GASE, Dr. Peng shared his insights on environmental sustainability development in the post-pandemic era, and the relation between climate change and the pandemic.
Carbon emission might rebound due to retaliatory consumption post-pandemic
Because of COVID-19, human was forced to stop travels and business activities, which resulted in the reduction of carbon emission and pollution, bringing the emission rate 8% lower than the same period last year. People has been trying to battle climate change for many years, and the goal was surprisingly accomplished thanks to the pandemic. Many environmental monitoring data also showed the same result stating that the carbon emission this year is 6-8% lower than last year. However, the data also indicates that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in March is the highest in history.
Dr. Peng further explained that it takes a while for the earth ecosystem to recover when people start reducing carbon emission. However, during the pandemic, people are forced to stop activities, instead of actually changing the lifestyles. Therefore, the carbon emission might rebound when economic activity and retaliatory consumption rise after the pandemic is over.
Climate change brings risks of emerging infectious diseases
It is hard to link diseases and weather together, but Dr. Peng pointed out that more and more scientists believed that climate change could increase the possibility for infectious disease to emerge. For instance, animals have greater opportunities to expose to human contact if their habitat is destroyed because of climate change; ancient bacteria and viruses could be released if permafrost meltdown because of global warming. Extreme weather, such as storm, heatwave, drought, and bushfires can impact every aspect of our daily life and create immense challenges for governments and societies. In 2019, the Oxford word of the year is “climate emergency,” which was believed to be a “fear appeal marketing” at the moment. However, after the outbreak this year, many countries are facing breakdown of medical and economic system, which are the real emergency situation.
Environmental sustainability post-pandemic: official & civilian cooperation
As the pandemic starts to ease, many countries are now seeking to boost their economy. Dr. Peng thought that although many industries were hit hard by COVID-19, it could also be a great opportunity to develop new industries. Taiwan government could follow the example of European Union to include sustainable measures in government’s relief package to support the development of environmental protection; thus, to speed up the country’s pace in carbon reduction. For example, the government can support the aviation industry, which is the most impacted business during pandemic, by replacing the fuel-consuming aircraft to protect the environment.
Apart from supporting green industry and reduce carbon emission, Dr. Peng also suggested that Taiwanese government need to be more flexible when facing natural disasters in the future. The government should build an emergency response system by cooperating with the public, such as the “face mask national team” in response to COVID-19, which is the best example for official and civilian cooperation.
In the end, Dr. Peng shared that Japan has realized that it takes the whole community to fight against extreme weather as the country is frequently hit by typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis. Therefore, Japan has built the “self-help, mutual-help and official-help” system for emergency contingency response, among which official-help only accounts for 20-30 percent. This system also helps improve the public’s disaster prevention ability and boosts the growth of the related industry in the country.