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Author Interview: Arunima Malik on Global Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Arunima Malik and an international team of researchers recently assessed how the Coronavirus pandemic has caused worldwide consumption losses amounting to more than US$3.8 trillion while simultaneously spawning the largest recorded drop in greenhouse gas emissions. Their PLOS ONE paper, “Global socio-economic losses and environmental gains from the Coronavirus pandemic,” highlights the inherent dilemma of the global socio-economic system and the need for increased global cooperation and solidarity. Read on to see their thoughts on the need to move beyond discipline boundaries, the effects of their research on policy and more.

The list of authors on this article spans the globe, with researchers affiliated with Australia, Japan, Ecuador, China, Indonesia, United States, and the United Kingdom. Can you speak on how this team was formed?

AM: The assessment presented in our published study was undertaken in the Global Industrial Ecological Virtual Laboratory — a cloud computing environment that brings together researchers from multiple disciplines and universities to foster new and innovative research.

We formed the multi-regional multi-disciplinary team to allow us to capture insights and data related to COVID-19 for not just English, but also for a range of languages. We followed a three-tier approach to enable us to best capture global events related to the pandemic. We note in the manuscript: “In addition to English, and in alphabetical order, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish were used in our search, thus covering languages spoken by over 5 billion people.”

What drives you in your field of research, and why do you believe your research is important?

AM: I am passionate about understanding impacts embodied in complex supply chains. It’s important to be able to understand how systems are interconnected, and how effects in one system ripple through other systems. Sustainability applies to us all, and I enjoy being able to contribute to this evolving field of research. Regarding the current pandemic, these ripple effects have been further emphasized on a global scale.

How crucial are structures that support interdisciplinary review to the publication and dissemination of your research?

AM: My research is interdisciplinary as it brings together concepts and methodologies from a range of disciplines. It is therefore important to have structures that support interdisciplinary review and dissemination of results. There is a need to move beyond disciplinary boundaries to facilitate and promote interdisciplinary research for understanding complex sustainability-related issues.

What impact is your research having in your scientific community, in the media, and more widely?

AM: Research in supply chain analysis is definitely gaining relevance, and we are now starting to see the use of input-output tables by organisations for sustainability assessments. Input output analysis has been used in the reports published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Stockholm Environment Institute — such as the report on the Argentina-EU soy supply chain regarding impacts on Sustainable Development Goals.

Comments from the Editor

Dr. Bing Xue, PLOS ONE Academic Editor from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Germany, speaks on the importance of Arunima’s research and supply chain analyses.

BX: The spread of COVID-19 has impacted the global economy, triggering a great debate in the economic circles on the impact of the epidemic. As a result of the lockdown and other measures taken by various countries to deal with the pandemic, the supply chain at the enterprise level was disrupted, which led to the shutdown of global value chain trade, specifically in terms of consumption loss, income loss and employment loss. At the same time, due to the ripple effect of supply chain disruption, some polluting companies have reduced output, reducing GHG and SO2 emissions, which has a positive impact on the environment.

Looking at the world as a cohesive whole, global MRIO-based supply-chain analyses helps to clearly understand the different impacts on countries in different positions of global value chain. The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on some important conditions for the rise and rapid progress of economic globalization, stimulating the restructuring of global value chains.

What is more important is the orderly development of economic globalization after the pandemic. Based on the perspective of the global industrial chain, how to cope with the impact of the outbreak and spread of the pandemic on the supply chain is an issue that should be concerned by the scientific community.

I would like to thank Arunima and Bing for their research and for taking the time to provide their thoughtful comments.

Citation

Lenzen M, Li M, Malik A, Pomponi F, Sun Y-Y, Wiedmann T, et al. (2020) Global socio-economic losses and environmental gains from the Coronavirus pandemic. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0235654. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235654

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