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article imageCoronavirus lockdown hasn't slowed down climate change

By Karen Graham     Apr 24, 2020 in Environment
The economic toll of the coronavirus is forcing cities and states to redirect money away from projects that provide climate resilience, in a shift that threatens to tackle one crisis at the expense of another.
As most of us realize, the appearance of the coronavirus has not slowed down global warming. That crisis goes on, regardless of how many countries or cities are locked down and how many people become infected or die.
Officials in San Francisco, Miami Beach, and New York City - to name a few at-risk coastal cities - are planning on delaying climate-related projects like seawalls because of the COVID-19 pandemic, per the New York Times. Dealing with the virus has forced many communities to slash tax revenues and increased demands for essential services, like emergency services, housing, and other immediate needs.
Washington state has already cut funding for its climate-resilience projects. This has forced people who work on climate-adaptation projects in other states to take a look at their projects, and many worry that they too, will have to be delayed.
First-line responders on the environmental front - usually non-profit groups - are also bracing for a decline in donations, pay cuts, and a hiring freeze, according to the Economic Times. It is all part of the collateral damage from the coronavirus crisis. And it is possible that donations will eventually bounce back, but the damage caused by delaying or canceling infrastructure projects will have long-term effects.
With oceans predicted to rise by one to two metres by 2100  researchers in the US looked at the freq...
With oceans predicted to rise by one to two metres by 2100, researchers in the US looked at the frequency of extreme water levels measured by 202 tide gauges along the US coastline
Jose Luis Magana, AFP/File
Uphill battle against COVID-19
Even though countries across the globe are putting up a valiant fight against the coronavirus, it is still an uphill battle. With millions out of work, the pandemic has hit economies hard and it could still cause far worse consequences till a viable vaccine is formulated.
And in February this year, the Trump administration's proposed 2021 budget would slash funding for the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers, eliminating all $38 million for research to help wildlife and humans “adapt to a changing climate.”
Hamstringing research and climate adaptation projects at a time when the nation is undergoing a national health crisis really doesn't make a lot of sense, say many scientists. All eight of the regional centers are part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) but are housed at universities where they produce research about the local impacts of climate change, according to The Hill.
All this is going on in the background, even as the death toll from the coronavirus continues to rise in the U.S., and extreme weather events continue to march across the nation. And just about every city official said that if anything was likely to salvage their climate agendas, it would be the federal government, in the form of dedicated infrastructure funds aimed at restarting the economy after the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
Shalini Vajjhala, a former Obama administration official who now advises cities on defending against the effects of climate change, said she was already fielding calls from local officials looking to put together “shovel-ready” resilience projects that could start hiring workers right away and that might qualify for a future stimulus package.
Laura Lightbody, head of the Flood-Prepared Communities project for the Pew Charitable Trusts says this: “Without resilience planning, systems and infrastructure already spread thin may not be able to respond effectively to the next big flood,” Ms. Lightbody said. “Natural disasters won’t wait until this pandemic has run its course.”
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