The Pandemic and Climate Change

Following the success of the SSRP web forum on the pandemic and sustainability, SSRP ran this third webinar as part of a series picking up the key themes raised in the forum blogs. This webinar focused on climate change in context of the pandemic.

The 'A Tale of Two Crises: The Pandemic and Climate Change' webinar was held on Tuesday 14 July 2020 and welcomed 46 attendees from within the University of Sussex and Institute of Development Studies (IDS) community, and beyond.

Over the past months the world has rightly focused on the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic. But what of the other global crisis, climate change? Is there a connection between the two crises?

Panelists discussed questions including:

  • What are the implications of the pandemic on greenhouse gas emissions for the year or on the rate of global warming? How will this impact on global climate goals?
  • The pandemic has revealed society’s susceptibilities and robustness. Will this new awareness teach us something about adapting to climate change?
  • The world’s energy system is a major contributor to global warming and has been shaken up by the pandemic. What kind of changes to the energy system have taken place? Will they be long lasting? What do they mean for climate change?
  • What are the known and anticipated impacts of COVID-19 on energy demand and climate change?
  • How has the disease shaped institutional responses and varying energy policy frameworks, especially in Africa?
  • How will the disease impact ongoing social practices, innovations and sustainability transitions, including not only renewable energy but also mobility?
  • How might the disease, and social responses to it, exacerbate underlying patterns of energy poverty, energy vulnerability, and energy injustice?

This webinar was moderated by the Director of SSRP, Joseph Alcamo, a Professor of Environmental Systems Science. He previously served as the first Chief Scientist of UNEP and played a strategic role in the international climate negotiations leading up to the Paris Agreement.

The panelists were:

  • Dr Melissa Lazenby, a Lecturer in Physical Geography and a Doctor of climate science, with strong experience in the field of climate research and analysis over southern Africa. Her research explores future climate projections over Southern Africa, identifying the key signals and understanding the sources of, and physical reasons for, uncertainty in future projections. By advancing our knowledge of the credibility of climate models Melissa's work aims to contribute to the evidence base to inform decision-making in climate change adaptation.

  • Professor Benjamin Sovacool, a Professor of Energy Policy at SPRU at the University of Sussex Business School and the Director of the Sussex Energy Group. He is a Lead Author of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), due to be published in 2022, and an Advisor on the European Commission on Energy. Benjamin is a researcher and consultant on issues pertaining to energy policy, energy security, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation. More specifically, his research focuses on renewable energy and energy efficiency, the politics of large-scale energy infrastructure, designing public policy to improve energy security and access to electricity, and building adaptive capacity to the consequences of climate change.

Watch the webinar recording:

Climate change and pandemic webinar screenshot

For more on the pandemic and sustainability, read the thought-provoking blogs from our academic community in the SSRP forum on the pandemic and sustainability.

If you have any questions about SSRP's webinar events, please contact: