COVID-19 and climate change: from ‘Yes, we can’ to ‘Oh no’

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Talk by Professor Mark Howden

Pre-COVID, greenhouse gas emissions were at record levels, pushing the atmospheric concentrations ever higher and triggering unprecedented climate extremes. The rapid and large response to COVID including massive funding, the apparent heed taken of scientific advice and commitment of governments to equitable solutions provided hope that we could take similar action on climate change. Unfortunately, COVID brought (temporary) behavioural change which reduced emissions about 5% but in many countries no structural change. In fact, in some cases much of the stimulus funding went to fossil-fuel companies, further locking them in. The attachment to evidence-based policy seems short-lived and selective and the reversion to the pre-COVID economic level and patterns of activity almost complete (the ‘snapback’ once we are ‘on the other side’ mentality). Consequently, GHG emissions are now back to about where they were pre-COVID and I suspect next year will exceed those.

Talk by Dr Arnagretta Hunter

Health impacts of climate change: Air, Food, Water, Where and How We Live; the cobenefits for climate mitigation and the opportunities and risks as we begin to address the challenge of climate adaptation.

Talk by Dr Will J Grant

The last 2 years has seen the world undergo profound and rapid changes as we’ve dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. But what have these changes meant for taking action on climate change? I argue that the short term impacts on reduced flights may not last, but longer term impacts - realising we can do our jobs remotely, realising we might want the world to look different - may have long lasting affects.


About the speakers

Professor Mark Howden is Director of the Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions at The Australian National University. He is also an Honorary Professor at Melbourne University, a Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and is the Chair of the ACT Climate Change Council. Mark has worked on Climate Change issues over 30 years. Issues he has addressed include agriculture and food security, the natural resource base, ecosystems and biodiversity, energy, water and urban systems.  


Dr Arnagretta HunterDr Arnagretta Hunter is a physician, cardiologist and the Human Futures Fellow for the College of Health and Medicine.  She has a range of interests including the health impacts of climate change. She is the chair of the Commission for the Human Future and is cohost of Policy Forum Podcast from ANU's Crawford School of Public Policy.



Dr Will GrantDr Will Grant is Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at ANU. He is co-founder of the researcher employment service PostAc, and podcasts at The Wholesome Show, G’day Patriots and G’day Sausages, charting in the Australian iTunes top 50. Awarded for his public policy and outreach work, Will has authored or co-authored dozens of works in various scholarly outlets, written commissioned and pitched articles and opinion pieces in high impact public-facing outlets, focusing mostly on the interaction of science, politics and technology.