Parallels have often been drawn between the COVID-19 crisis and the climate change crisis. The main thing, perhaps, is that intergenerational solidarity is essential to both crises.
While in the coronavirus crisis less vulnerable young people must help contain the spread of the virus to protect more susceptible older generations, it is the other way round with climate change. The younger generation will have to deal with the effects of climate change in decades to come and is dependent on older generations undergoing a radical rethink and changing their actions. The gravity of progressing global warming is also dependent on the decisions taken now to address the pandemic.
The neoliberal economist Milton Friedman described the significance of crisis for change as follows: “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”
Not only environmentalists see the potential for change in the coronavirus crisis. Proponents of globalisation, driven by capitalism, also view the crisis as an opportunity. They see it as a chance to water down existing trade regulations and climate and environmental conditions even further.