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Climate change linked to pandemic

Published on 9 June 2020 Indonesia

An activist dressed as a panda bear, wearing a poster reading ‘Climate protection is system relevant’, during a protest against the German government’s rescue plans for the car industry, in front of the Chancellery in Berlin on Tuesday. -AFP picAn activist dressed as a panda bear, wearing a poster reading ‘Climate protection is system relevant’, during a protest against the German government’s rescue plans for the car industry, in front of the Chancellery in Berlin on Tuesday. -AFP pic

The Covid-19 pandemic is a silent reminder that we are at a tipping point of two of the world's greatest yet invisible enemies — climate change and biodiversity loss. The three global challenges are interlinked.

Some researchers are suggesting a link between humanity's destruction of biodiversity and the conditions conducive for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19 that were once contained in the wild. Some countries have in turn looked at reversing biodiversity loss. Malaysia allocated RM48 million in its 2020 Budget to preserve its pristine forests and natural biodiversity.

The problems of natural crises, climate, and biodiversity loss are linked, but fortunately so are the solutions. To mobilize greater action towards the issue, this year's World Environment Day focuses on the theme of biodiversity and the urgent need to protect it.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 15 to 40 percent of ecosystems are being affected by climate change. The rampant use of fossil fuels and increased energy consumption to support industrialization and development around the globe has led to greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet as we speak.

As a result, climate patterns around the world are fluctuating, and ecosystems and biodiversity are suffering due to this. This led to biodiversity loss and disruption of natural habitats, leaving us vulnerable and exposed to biological disasters.

Governments, businesses, and industries are increasingly playing for the sake of a habitable planet. Last year, Malaysia achieved a 33 percent reduction in carbon emission intensity of gross domestic product relative to 2005 levels, with the aim of a 45 percent emission cut by 2030.

More recently, over 155 companies across 34 sectors and 33 countries, including Grundfos, signed a statement urging governments to align their Covid-19 economic aid and recovery efforts with the latest climate science.

Building a sustainable future in harmony with nature is critical to our long-term survival. It calls for an innovative and introspective approach that looks beyond the obvious. The main contributor to carbon emissions is energy consumption. Nearly every process around us consumes energy, from HVAC systems in buildings to industrial processes such as water treatment or heating and boiling.

Pumps are responsible for 10 percent of the global electricity consumption, and consequently, are major contributors to our carbon emissions. However, few realize the environmental potential of replacing inefficient pumps.

The digital era has equipped us with capabilities to drive significant efficiencies in our systems to combat climate change and protect our natural environment. Pump manufacturers such as Grundfos are investing in developing intelligent solutions that are more intuitive and interconnected, optimizing water and energy efficiency in pumps for a range of applications across industries.

Another important tool in our efforts to combat climate change and protect our environment is renewable energy. We stand to gain from tapping on the vast potential of renewables and expanding its usage. A notable example is the advent of solar water solutions, which not only reduces carbon footprint but is also capable of empowering rural and remote areas with water access.

A case in point is the Kahiyangan village on Pulau Tomia, Indonesia, which grappled with water shortage for over 20 years. To tackle this, a system powered by 144 solar panels was installed in the village, which pumps water from the source into a water tank, providing clean water to around 1,000 people in two villages at zero operating cost.

Solar pumps have been used in some wildlife reserves in India, to ensure that the watering holes have enough water for the animals. These systems help further safeguard and promote natural habitat and biodiversity.

However, with climate change leading to extreme weather events, such as storms and droughts, water access in many areas has been affected. To ensure that we have these resources at our disposal, we need to be more conscientious in their usage. For example, we can look at alternative water sources, like water reuse.

Industries can look at treating and reusing wastewater instead of taking in new water, which would help save water for the community. In short, we cannot protect ourselves without protecting our environment.

If we do not relook our approach to the climate crisis, it will continue to have a knock-on effect on future epidemics and global crises. Addressing biodiversity loss, like so many other things, seems to have been shunted aside by the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, it is more important now than ever to keep it front and center.

Source: New Straits Times 5 June 2020