In Depth

Instant Opinion: What Covid-19 tells us about tackling the climate crisis

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 24 March

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Jonathan Watts in The Guardian

on saving lives

Delay is deadly: what Covid-19 tells us about tackling the climate crisis

“Like global warming, but in close-up and fast-forward, the Covid-19 outbreak shows how lives are lost or saved depending on a government’s propensity to acknowledge risk, act rapidly to contain it, and share the consequences... Instead of deferring risks to future generations, weaker populations and natural systems, governments need to transform risks into responsibilities we all bear. The longer we hesitate, the fewer resources we will have at our disposal, and the more risk we will have to divide.”

2. Rachel Sylvester in The Times

on compassion and competence

Crisis gives Tories a chance to show they care

“Margaret Thatcher famously said: ‘There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people.’ Mr Johnson is realising that sometimes people have to be made to do the right thing, and that there is such a thing as the common good. The Tory champions of capitalism, who understood the cost of everything but the value of nothing, have concluded that at a time of global emergency the state may be the only possible safety net... The political Rubik’s cube had already been scrambled by Brexit, with the traditional red and blue sides muddled up at the last general election. Now the cube has been entirely dismantled and it is not clear how it will ever be put back together.”

3. Charles Moore in The Telegraph

on rigid orders

Supporters of draconian action must bear in mind its unintended effects

“Last night, Boris Johnson announced a much fiercer clampdown to deal with [the failure to maintain social distance last weekend]. The public are now extremely restricted in where they can go. His argument is one from dire necessity, and it would be bold to say it is wrong. But those calling for draconian action also need to remember its unintended effects. If, for example, the Government had suddenly ‘locked down’ London last week – as was rumoured – such a measure would itself have caused chaos. It could have turned hundreds of thousands of people into refugees, overcrowding road and trains, increasing infection risks as it did so... We, the herd, do need guidance, but if we become blindly dependent on rigid orders, we might panic blindly too.”

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4. David Patrikarakos in The Spectator

on Iran failing its citizens

Iran’s coronavirus tragedy is depressingly predictable

“The pandemic has hit Iran hard. As of this week there are around 1,800 fatalities, the fourth highest number of COVID-19 deaths after China, Italy and Spain. Iranians I speak to tell me they suspect things are much worse. The government, they say, is lying, like it always does. They are bitter. But their bitterness is tinged with weariness and a weird kind of black humour that is borne of long experience. Times are tough. But then they always are... What do you do when those you are compelled to rely on to keep you safe are those you trust the least?”

5. Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times

on the US president’s real values

Trump thinks he knows better than the doctors about coronavirus

“We aren’t quite flying blind, but without more tests we can’t see very clearly either. What we do know is that we have a fast-growing caseload that implies that there are many more infections than what’s in the official numbers so far. To relax restrictions in this environment is to guarantee greater spread of the disease and higher death tolls... Trump will sacrifice Americans to coronavirus if it will save the market and his prospects for re-election. Which is to say that given the choice between solidarity and barbarism, Trump will choose barbarism. We’ll see, in November, if the rest of the country follows suit.”

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