It must be different if it is to be good*

"Stressed bats transmitted the virus," the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) reported in one of the now ubiquitous Covid-19 reports a few days ago. According to experts, interference in the habitat of these animals, the clearing of forests and the confinement of live animals in small cages caused enormous stress. Stress that facilitates the transition of viruses from one species to another and in the current case eventually to humans. It is very likely that there are tens of thousands of other viruses that can be transmitted in the same way.

Covid-19, climate crisis, loss of biodiversity, waste of resources - does it make sense to put these issues into context?

At first glance, it may seem cynical to some people to compare the corona pandemic with the climate crisis and establish appropriate reference points. But it is not. For as different as the two issues are, these crises have crucial points in common: they are global, causing deaths worldwide and enormous economic and social damage. Possibly also major democratic and social setbacks, for which we need only look beyond the borders to Hungary.

While the economic and, of course, social extent of the consequences of Corona is currently still difficult to assess, we have been given a vast number of very concrete figures for the effects of the climate crisis for years. In Austria alone, the damage caused by weather and climate change already amounts to an average of around 1 billion euros a year. The COIN (Cost of Inaction) study from the year 2015 (!) shows that, under a medium climate change scenario, the damage will increase to an average of 4.2-5.2 billion euros annually by 2050 - in Austria alone. The study only takes into account the direct damage caused by climate change in this country and not yet the consequences of global disasters on Austria, such as prolonged droughts, massive crop failures or migration flows caused by climate change.

According to the WHO, at least 7 million people already die every year as a result of air pollution, triggered in particular by the burning of coal and oil. Additional figures on diseases and deaths caused by the climate crisis or the loss of our biodiversity are often difficult to ascertain, but they are millions of times higher and they are rising continuously - largely without the press reporting and without changes to our unsustainable economies and lifestyles.

It is therefore crucial not to shy away from the comparison and to learn something from the current handling of the Corona pandemic to overcome the climate crisis and the further development of our economic system. After all, while we were not sufficiently prepared for this pandemic, we can still prepare for the effects of climate change and contain them through targeted action. What can, indeed what must we as a society take in from this crisis for a more sustainable future?

1. We should listen to science and experts! During the Corona crisis, doctors, mathematicians and virologists are advising politicians so that the important and right steps can be taken to protect us. Climate experts from a wide range of disciplines have been warning about the effects of global warming for decades. It is imperative that policy-makers take science seriously, including in the area of climate protection, and act accordingly and quickly.

2. Corona teaches us the most important means of combating a crisis: think ahead, act early - and not when you are in the middle of the situation and even drastic measures come too late. You need a concrete, comprehensible plan to get through the crisis. With clear objectives and intermediate stages. In the case of the climate crisis, this means clear plans for adaptation, precise greenhouse gas reduction targets and implementation plans with measures that are backed by the necessary budget.

3. Regional production and supply are essential. Global dependencies for products to sustain life should be reduced to a minimum. Therefore, a much stronger focus on regional food, expansion of European production in essential supply areas, the development of a regional bio-economy and regional, renewable energies instead of coal, oil and gas from other countries! This reduces pollutants and promotes the local economy.

4. In a crisis, responsible, serious and competent political leadership and clear, transparent communication are central. If people trust political leadership, the population will also support drastic measures. In the climate crisis, politicians have not yet done so, although this is not a matter of drastic shock measures, but of gradual but consistent restructuring.

These two crises could have one more thing in common: We can solve them together in solidarity. The government is now rightly providing a great deal of money to soften the economic impact of the coronavirus. These billions should of course help quickly and be available to the population and the economy unbureaucratically. Companies must be maintained and jobs safeguarded, but after the acute Covid 19 crisis, the only responsible way forward is to focus on ecological restructuring and to steer investments in the right direction - towards more sustainability!

The imperative of precaution, which our government has rightly defined as a top priority in this current crisis, must have the consequence that in the post-Corona period investments are made in innovative green technology and the shift to clean energy. This must go hand in hand with persuading the public to change their daily habits and lifestyle in the long term. Because if we are protecting the climate and the environment, we are protecting ourselves and everyone’s health. Nature survives crises, as evolution has often proven. The interesting question for us is: Will we still be here? *borrowed from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799): "Admittedly, I cannot say whether it will be better if it is different, but I can say this much: it must be different if it is to be good.


Arnold Schwarzenegger's climate conference and open air festival will take place in September

Due to the current situation concerning the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the AUSTRIAN WORLD SUMMIT and the CLIMATE KIRTAG are postponed to September 17, 2020. Everyone's health comes first and has the highest priority.

“Sadly, we must postpone the AUSTRIAN WORLD SUMMIT and CLIMATE KIRTAG in Vienna to September 17th, but we must put health first. Stay positive, stay healthy and listen to the experts. Together we can contain the virus if we act as a team and all focus on the necessary measures. So: Stay at home! Our commitment to fighting pollution remains unbroken and we will continue our important work for a clean energy future. This situation shows what is possible if we all work together. I am looking forward to seeing you all in September," Arnold Schwarzenegger emphasized.

Monika Langthaler, Director of "The Schwarzenegger Climate Initiative": "Our main concern is to guarantee the health and safety of the participants and speakers of the AUSTRIAN WORLD SUMMIT and CLIMATE KIRTAG and to help contain the virus. A new date for the events is the right way to ensure this. It was important for us not to cancel the conference, because climate change is still happening and we must act. I am convinced that we can learn something from dealing with the current corona crisis in order to tackle the climate crisis."

The motto remains "Be the Solution". With this in mind, an exciting, somewhat shortened conference program with practical solutions and great live acts on the Open-Air-Festival stage awaits our guests in September in Vienna (exact location yet to be fixed). In terms of content, there will be a new focus in addition to the topics already planned: How can we continue to be ambitious in international climate policy despite or even because of challenges like the corona virus? What do we learn from current crisis management strategies? How can we prevent millions of deaths caused by climate change and environmental pollution worldwide by taking swift action?

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