Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said the coronavirus pandemic emphasized the importance of listening to experts during a time of crisis, and the same should be applied to climate change.
Thunberg took part in a digital conversation with earth systems scientist Johan Rockström, who also serves as the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The livestream was hosted by the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on Wednesday.
“We are realizing that we are dependent on science and scientific evidence, and we need to listen to the experts and the scientific data,” Thunberg said.
She said the pandemic has proven that society can come together to respond to expert advice — as seen by the numerous lockdowns and stay-at-home orders — and that the same sense of urgency must be taken with the climate crisis, which is a long-term issue.
“If the coronavirus crisis has shown us one thing, it is that our society is not sustainable,” she said. “If one single virus can destroy economies in a couple of weeks, it shows we are not thinking long-term and taking risks into account.”
The year 2020 is seen as “a pivotal year for how we address climate change,” according to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, in that the world must reduce emissions to limit global heating by mid-century.
The coronavirus lockdowns have led to reduced emissions levels as people are recommended to stay home to contain the spread of the virus.
However, the pandemic has upended the predicted trajectory of the climate crisis, as research efforts are being shifted to deal with the immediate problem at hand.