The past two years have been a checklist for the worst impulses of government and public sentiment. COVID allowed for supposedly temporary measures to morph into two years of “emergency” restrictions. But what if COVID was only the opening act, and another proclaimed crisis is the main event? Implementing significant but partial restrictions, one by one, in the name of the common good can allow for encompassing government control that results in relatively little backlash. Fear over climate change could lead to long-term soft lockdowns, given the precedent of immense growth of government power and significant support for sweeping state actions.
This isn’t a right-wing fever dream. Calls for harsh government measures in the name of saving the environment are already in the parlance of influential organizations and figures. In November 2020, the Red Cross proclaimed that climate change is a bigger threat than COVID and should be confronted with “the same urgency.” Bill Gates recently demanded dramatic measures to prevent climate change, claiming it will be worse than the pandemic. Despite millions of people having died from COVID, former governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney last year predicted that climate deaths will dwarf those of the pandemic. Lockdowns, which significantly reduced carbon emissions during 2020, could be the solution. After all, the EU’s climate service gloated, the first COVID lockdown may have saved 800 lives.
What would climate lockdowns look like? Most likely, cities and states would begin a gradual and discrete ramp-up of restrictions. During the early days of the pandemic, millions of Americans worked from home; this could become the permanent norm if special carbon taxes are put in place. Such taxes could be imposed on companies, limiting driving or air miles, and extend to individual employees. Drive to work in a car? You get hit with the tax. Children could be impacted by climate lockdowns, too. Schools, especially those heavily influenced by teachers’ unions, could impose permanent online-only days. Delhi, India is already using a version of this concept to crack down on smog pollution.
Coming soon: Climate lockdowns? | TheHillComing soon: Climate lockdowns? | TheHill