Amid the onslaught of a deadly pandemic and widespread protests against police brutality, last summer’s devastating bushfire season and the push for climate action that came with it already seem like a distant memory.
Whereas 2019 was defined by images of hundreds of thousands of people marching in the School Strikes for Climate, environment protests and conferences so far this year have been cancelled due to social distancing restrictions.
And while there was some talk of the positive impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on emission levels, scientists and activists say they are concerned the momentum of the climate movement, bolstered by the bushfires and Greta Thunberg-inspired action, has been lost.
“Last summer was so extreme ... it had such a pervasive economic impact as well as a personal impact, that it was very hard for politicians not to take it on board,” said Mark Howden, a vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute.
“So there was definitely a softening of some of the political rhetoric to be more accepting of climate change. But unfortunately, along comes COVID and that mood just got lost.”