Robert Redford highlights 'pleasant surprises' the coronavirus pandemic is having on climate change

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Robert Redford and his son, director James Redford, discussed how the coronavirus pandemic has shown the world how it can prepare for what they see as the inevitable fight against climate change.

As COVID-19 has forced people across the country to go into lockdown in order to help curtail the spread of the virus and relieve some of the pressure on America’s healthcare system, the acclaimed actor and his son penned an op-ed for NBC News in which they look at the silver lining that this unprecedented societal change is highlighting.

“As everyone continues to adjust to a changed world, we have been sharing a few questions,” the op-ed reads. “What has the scourge of COVID-19 revealed to us? Will any of these hard-won lessons help us as we turn to face the potential calamity of climate change that looms on the horizon?”

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They go on to criticize President Donald Trump and his “failed leadership” during the onset of the pandemic, joining the chorus of celebrities who have previously bashed his initial response to the virus as slow.

“Some lessons have been bitter. Here in the U.S., we have seen the cost of failed leadership. As the pandemic began its global march, President Donald Trump failed to act quickly and decisively, likely increasing its toll and worsening our pain and suffering,” the duo wrote. “As he has done with climate change, Trump failed early on to embrace or even understand sound scientific consensus about what must be done to protect this nation and its people.”

Robert Redford penned an op-ed with his son about climate change amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Robert Redford penned an op-ed with his son about climate change amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)

The op-ed goes on to note that while they feel the federal government has failed the United States, its frontline workers, including medical staff, grocery store workers and warehouse staff, have stepped up. He also thanked the millions of Americans who have willingly sheltered in place to “protect their families and communities.”

That’s when they turned their attention to climate change, noting the various “pleasant surprises” that a decrease in things like transportation are having on the environment.

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“There have also been some pleasant surprises. As many of the world's transportation and industrial sectors have reduced operations, there has been a remarkable decline in global levels of carbon dioxide emissions,” the article reads. “Of course, the cost in life and livelihood negates any celebration. Nonetheless, there is no denying that we have gotten a very real glimpse of the potential for global environmental repair.”

They add: “COVID-19 has shown us the power of sound science, true leadership and early action. We must honor this knowledge if we want to avoid what is coming.”

The father-and-son team ended their lengthy op-ed with a call to action for the American people to both demand and take action in the fight for climate change by learning from the ongoing pandemic.

Robert Redford penned a short op-ed for NBC News in which he asked people to demand action on climate change.

Robert Redford penned a short op-ed for NBC News in which he asked people to demand action on climate change. (Reuters)

“As COVID-19 began its lethal march across our nation, most Americans embraced scientific consensus and understood that collective grassroots action could protect us from the worst-case scenarios,” they conclude. “This actionable wisdom should be at the core of our fight against climate change. If we come together to do what we can, we can and will blunt the curve of climate change and create a better world for the many generations to come.”

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As of Friday morning, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 3,271,961 people across 185 countries and territories, resulting in over 233,704 deaths. In the U.S., all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, tallying over 1,070,032 illnesses and at least 63,019 deaths.