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Three pandemic measures which will also curb climate change: Flannery

“We saw that during the pandemic with JobKeeper and JobSeeker, people were frustrated with the lockdown, but they were grateful for the financial support,” he said.

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“We know with the climate crisis there are communities all over the country which will need to be brought along into the new clean energy world with a real sense of social justice, that they’re not being left behind.”

The second prong was to ensure emergency departments were bolstered, which was needed for both pandemic response and the extra capacity requirements predicted by experts due to climate-related health issues.

Third was to develop a vaccine in a pandemic, while to combat climate change Professor Flannery said the vaccine stage would take the form of restorative measures such as replanting old-growth forests.

“I think we’ve lacked focus on the holistic approach that’s required in the climate challenge,” he said.

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“A lot of people think it’s just stopping the problem from getting worse by cutting emissions. Well, that’s part of it, but there’s a whole series of other things that the pandemic has taught us that we need to keep an eye on.”

Experts have pointed out that the effects of climate change would increase the number of disease outbreaks and raise the risk of new pandemics arising owing to animal populations being driven into closer proximity with humans.

That meant by learning lessons from the pandemic, governments could help to reduce the effects of climate change as well as help prevent future pandemics as a side-benefit.

Professor Flannery said he had seen a shifting in the momentum from government and industry on the issue of climate change, but the response needed to be sped up at all levels.

“I don’t deal with hope or despair, I just know what needs to be done, and I’m encouraging people to get on with it as quickly as we can,” he said.

“The sooner we do it, the better off we’ll be. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to act early.”

Professor Flannery will outline his thoughts on the connection between COVID and climate change in a keynote address as part of Queensland University of Technology’s Sustainability Week.

He had been due to give the lecture in person but the current outbreak in NSW meant he could not leave Sydney, and the address would be streamed online.

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