Climate change, coronavirus and Greta Thunberg

By Asitha Jayawardena

Greta Thunberg
By European Parliament from EU – Greta Thunberg at the Parliament, CC BY 2.0,

It’s about four months since Greta Thunberg, now 17, came to Bristol in the UK in February 2020. We still remember the speech that she did despite the coronavirus took over and the country went into a lockdown from 23 March.

Now we are in the process of emerging from the lockdown. We should listen to Greta, who provided an interview exclusively to the BBC. Comparing climate change to the coronavirus, she has come up with three ideas:

  • Climate change is as urgent as the coronavirus
  • What is to do in climate change
  • Listen to scientists and experts in both coronavirus and climate change

Climate change is as urgent as the coronavirus

When coronavirus struck us, we went into lockdown without delay. In fact, the earlier the countries went into lockdown, the lower their death rate might be.

We must treat climate change with similar emergency as we have done with coronavirus, says Swedish Thunberg.

Moreover, people would act with necessary force with coronavirus, she says further. No green recovery plan would solve the crisis on its own.

The world is now passing a ‘tipping point’ of climate and movements such as Black Lives Matter, she says, expanding the subject, ‘we cannot keep sweeping these injustices under the carpet’.

What is to do in climate change

For coronavirus, there are methods for avoiding infections: social distancing, washing hands, masks, avoiding rough surfaces, and so on. First, it was ‘Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.’ Then it changed into ‘Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives.’

Similarly, start avoiding or at least reducing carbon emissions for climate change, Greta says, with the developed countries it’s better.

After the coronavirus, what should be done in order to give a boost for climate change?

Destroy all contracts, deals and agreements of countries, companies and organisations, she says firmly. Start fresh because there is no time.

Listen to scientists and experts in both coronavirus and climate change

For coronavirus, political leaders told people that they were listening to the scientists and experts.

Like coronavirus, listen to the scientists and experts for climate change, Greta advises.

She means the local scientists and experts as well as those from United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Political leaders are unable to stick to their advice because the political cycle is 4 or 5 years but the climate cycle is much wider, 10, 20 or 50 years.

The death toll?

What Greta Thunberg didn’t mention in the interview is the death toll from the coronavirus epidemic. It now stands at 471,000. Sadly, 122,000 in the US, 50,000 in Brazil, 42,000 in the UK, 34,000 in Italy and 29,000 in France have died so far.

But climate change? Mortality rate is high but it happens from time to time or at geographically different locations. This is what we have to consider because climate change is deadly and spans in time so long.


Greta Thunberg: Climate change ‘as urgent’ as coronavirus

Worldometer: Coronavirus



  1. Great summary, Asitha. I had actually written a Quora answer on why we haven’t been able to take the health threats climate change seriously yet ( I think it can be extrapolated to all of climate action (or lack of it).

    Science communicators need to show the urgency of the situation, something that they haven’t been able to do. It won’t help when we talk about what will happen in 2100; most laypersons are not interested because they won’t be there at that time!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.