Coronavirus - The Key Lesson


A few days ago, we could cope. Today, we’re stretched. And in a few days, hospitals - and mortuaries - will be overwhelmed. Why didn’t we order tests, masks, ventilators, beds, a month ago? But a month ago, there were only 100 cases; a number that has doubled every 3 days, so today there are over 50,000… And a month ago, people were saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll be all right, there are only 100 cases”. So nothing was done, no action was taken.

When we’re dealing with a problem that progressively doubles in intensity, it’s very easy to miss the early signs – which are inevitably weak – only to be overwhelmed, by which time it’s too late.

And although we are all – understandably – focused on coronavirus, there is another existential threat showing the same doubling behaviour. Climate change. The impact of the virus is catastrophic. But the impact of climate change will be cataclysmic. Not only disease, but famine and war too, as cities are flooded, agricultural land made into desert.

The doubling of the rise in the Earth’s temperature takes place far more slowly than the doubling of the virus. So it’s much less dramatic, and much less noticed. And far easier to say, “Don’t worry, we’ll be all right, the temperature has only risen by 0.1 degrees”. Yes, so easy... and in 50 years’ time, those still alive will be asking, “Why didn’t they act back in the 2020s, when there was time to fix it?”.

That’s the lesson we must learn today. To fix the climate change crisis, we must act now. That’s now. And the action is not just to reduce emissions. That’s good, but not enough. The fundamental problem is that there is too much CO2 in the atmosphere, CO2 that has accumulated over the decades, CO2 that is driving the temperature ever upwards. The action we need is a new Apollo- or Manhattan-style programme: a huge, co-ordinated, collaborative effort to develop as many ways as possible of taking that excess CO2 out. Now.

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By Dennis Sherwood

Keywords: Innovation, Predictive Analytics, Climate Change

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