This story was originally published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Here in Washington state, a spokesperson for the nursing home that is the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak said on Sunday that he and his colleagues “had seen some residents go from no symptoms to death in just a matter of hours.” COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, does not necessarily progress little by little toward a critical stage.
The spokesperson’s comments about the unpredictability and volatility of COVID-19 reminded me of how our planet is responding to climate change. While scientists measure climate change in fractions of degrees Celsius, its symptoms stubbornly refuse to emerge slowly and incrementally. We can no longer expect that weather patterns and glaciers and ecosystems will continue to change bit by bit. They may reach a tipping point and then collapse suddenly and perhaps even irreversibly — like a patient in a nursing home who seems fine one day but is dead the next.
As with climate change, the impacts of the coronavirus are unevenly distributed. Some places are harder hit than ot... Read more