The coronavirus pandemic is something novel that is leaving people around the world stopped in their tracks. Nations across the globe are being advised to stay home and reduce contact with others to stop the transmission of this new virus. As a result, schools are canceled, businesses are closing except for the essentials, flights are limited, and day-to-day life is changing at an unprecedented rate. These times can leave people anxious and worried while wondering what to do with themselves, but the impact of this pandemic is not all doom and gloom. This pandemic has had some positive effects on the environment despite the rather unfortunate circumstances.
China was the first nation to be hit with the virus. COVID-19 started to exponentially affect people at the beginning of the year. Chinese New Year rolled around and as per usual business shut down to celebrate which results in lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which happens every year. But this year was different. The levels of GHG emissions stayed low after the Chinese New Year as a result of people staying at home due to the virus. The results can be seen from space. One indicator of GHG is nitrogen dioxide emissions (NOx). With lower production of coal as well as red reduced automobile use, the country has seen some significant reductions in emissions and improved ait quality. Some experts speculate that the increase in air quality will save more lives in the long term.
The lower levels of pollution are not exclusive to China. Other countries are also emitting less. Many people are transitioning to working from home. As a result, the emissions from commuting have been drastically reduced. Another reduction in GHG due to COVID-19 comes from planes. Planes are a large producer of GHG but since many airlines have reduced or stopped flights together there are fewer GHG being released to the environment. The reduction of GHG can be seen from space
There are other benefits for the environment that have resulted from this unfortunate pandemic. The Venice River in Italy has remarkable changes to its water quality since Italy has been under lockdown from the virus. The river is typically full of pollution and the absence of life, but the river is now flowing clearly. Some people have provided false information about dolphins returning, but other organisms such as fish have started to occupy the waters again. Cruise ships typically dock at the port in Venice, but since cruise ships are a breeding ground for the virus and Italy being on lockdown, they haven’t been able to dock, and the river has had a chance to expel its dirty water and cultivate life again.
Although these grim times have resulted in reduced pressure on the environment, these benefits for the environment may not last forever. The health of citizens is important to a country, but so is its economy. The crisis has resulted in harsh economic times. Businesses are closing, some temporally and others potentially for good. People are losing jobs or getting reduced hours. These changes have temporarily benefitted the environment, but they may not be long-lasting. A growing economy is typically very energy demanding and once the virus subsides the race to get back on top will likely result in reduced emissions policies and production of energy from high polluters such as coal. the future regarding COVID-19 is unknown, but that doesn’t mean the future has to be grim.
This current pandemic we are experiencing is proof that humans are capable of drastically altering their lives. The coronavirus outbreak gives a glimpse of how nations can come together to fight an issue. These times pave a way for what is possible when it comes to climate change. The coronavirus is a global emergency but so is climate change. The current situation we are in gives proof that change can happen. Environmentalists warn that although the effects of climate change seem far away, they are just as big as a threat as COVID-19, if not larger than COVID-19. This global action is living proof that nations can come together to immense issues.
Although this time is tough for many people, there are still things people can do to maintain their mental and physical health. It is critical to practice social distancing, but as of now, people are still allowed to go outside and go for a hike, run, bike, etc as long as they are social distancing. If you want something a little more slow-paced, try visiting a forest and reap the benefits that nature can provide. These current times involve adjusting our lives, but maybe schedule some time to get outside and appreciate what nature has to offer, even if it is just in your own backyard.