We can do it - but only when it suits.
Interesting times. I refer, of course, to the currently rampaging Covid-19, or coronavirus and the various responses to it around the world. Large parts of Europe have effectively closed, and North America appears to be in the process of doing the same. New Zealand and Australia have just introduced isolation requirements for all international arrivals, and I read that the Irish government has asked all pubs to close ahead of St Patrick's Day - it must be bad.
And it is - this is a pandemic. The governments of the world are acting decisively and immediately to deal with the threat.
Why is that happening? Well it's happening because anyone with access to the media, and capable of rational thought, can see that there is a real and imminent danger of widespread death and suffering unless something is done about it - and quickly. And it's not only the health issue; at this early stage the economic ramifications can only be guessed.
All of which begs the question: "If we can turn the world on a sixpence because of coronavirus why can't we do it in response to climate change?" It is my opinion that, serious though Covid-19 is, on the currently available evidence, climate change presents a far greater threat to humanity as a whole.
So why the disparity in the responses? I think the answer lies in the relative immediacy of each situation. Coronavirus is going to kill people within the next few days and weeks, so governments have no option but to deal with it. In contrast even the most immediate effects of climate change aren't going to be lethal on a global scale before the next election - wherever that may be. So it's all about politics and power once again. The politicians can parade and posture all over the media about how important climate change is and what must be done, all the while avoiding any real hard cost, or overly unpopular policies. Those things can be left to their political successors and good luck with that. In fairness there is some great progress being made by some governments (and local authorities) but it's not enough - yet - and they all know that.
As I've said before though, my belief is that the one true saviour of the planet will be cold hard economics and it is already happening. Look at the rise of meat alternatives and vegan options in the supermarket aisles, the emphasis on renewable energy, electric cars, and the bad press being heaped on fossil fuels and those who burn them.
But still the response to climate change is developing gradually, whilst the response to Covid-19 is immediate. IE: Lesser evil sooner gets more attention than greater evil later.
Maybe a silver lining to the current cloud might be the realisation, on the part of governments, that the people can take it; humans can achieve remarkable things especially when it is a matter of survival.