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Applying the Lessons of COVID-19 to Climate Change

Now that everyone understands what an exponential curve looks like, how it works, and how it brings life-threatening risk to their lives, it might be time to re-examine the realities of climate change, too.
April 1, 2020, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Diana Vucane

Howard Kunreuther and Paul Slovic credit the coronavirus with teaching many more people in the world the concept of an exponential curve: “in which a quantity grows at an increasing rate over time, as the number of people contracting the virus currently is doing.”

Exponential growth is a hard concept for many people to grasp, according to Kunreuther and Slovic, until faced with the realities of a crisis. But the effects of climate change will work the same way, they argue.

And if there’s any silver lining in this mess, it’s that the coronavirus pandemic is teaching us a valuable lesson about the perils of ignoring destructive processes—and perhaps even larger, longer-term disasters—that increase exponentially. Even if growth looks mild in the moment—think of the earliest segments on an exponential curve like the red line shown in the illustration above—it will soon enough be severe. In other words, delay is the enemy.

The signs of exponential increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are already there, according to the article. Like with coronavirus, delaying a worldwide response will have dire consequences in the future.

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Published on Thursday, March 26, 2020 in Politico
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