Earth Day

COVID-19 and Climate Change

 

COVID-19 and Climate Change: Can the Lockdown Lifestyle Help the Environment?

With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, declared on March 11, 2020, several nations around the globe have encouraged citizens to stay at home and practice social distancing. During the lockdown period, studies and satellite images have shown that carbon emissions have dropped by around 5%. [1][2] The relative standstill of fast-paced life around the globe has improved several aspects of the global environment in time for Earth Day, on April 22, 2020; however, it is imperative to enact long-term improvements for global climate, especially during the aftermath of the pandemic.

The environmental silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic | Greater LA

Introduction to Coronavirus and Climate Change: 

Despite the coronavirus being a pandemic, climate change is also considered a grave threat to human health and life. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that temperatures will rise anywhere between 2.5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit within the next century. This rise in temperature will lead to several negative consequences, including sea level rise and a greater intensity of natural disasters. [3][4] COVID-19 falls under the category of zoonotic diseases, which are diseases characterized by animal to human transmission. With an increase in climate change, there would be a greater incidence of zoonotic diseases, potentially leading to a rise in global pandemics.

Temporary Effects: 

Several countries have extended their lockdowns, while others, primarily in Europe, are starting to lift their stringent requirements. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the increased air quality will only remain as long as the lockdowns remain, and that the reduced carbon emissions will not have a major impact on global climate. For example, cities such as New Delhi, India, will have increased visibility temporarily, but when life returns to normal, the visibility will likely reduce. [1]

Ways to Enact Long-Term Change: 

Nevertheless, if some of the lifestyle changes followed during this period of social distancing are adopted even after the pandemic, humans may be able to fight climate change more effectively. The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies published, “The virus has shown that if you wait until you can see the impact, it is too late to stop it.” [5] Perhaps a newfound realization of the fact that it is imperative to act on such crises would encourage world leaders to take more steps to fight climate change. In addition, during this period, world leaders are consulting with the top health experts of their respective countries for information about the virus and policy advice. [6] If they continue to consult with scientific experts in fields such as climate change, it is possible that lifestyle changes could be enacted in order to resist the negative results of climate change. Lastly, if the relative depletion in nonessential trips continues in the long term, carbon emissions would be significantly lowered. [5][6] Most companies have shifted to a work-from-home model, which allows employees to work anywhere without having to travel to the office itself. Moreover, people are encouraged to make fewer trips to grocery stores and restaurants, which also contributes to the improved air quality. 

Conclusion: 

Some regions and countries have already flattened their curves, and others are close to this point. If we, as global citizens, were to change our way of life in the long-term, to reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel usage just as we are doing during the coronavirus pandemic, the effects on climate-change could be far-reaching.

References:

  1. RFI, 2020. Covid-19: Biggest Drop In CO2 Emissions Since WWII But Little Impact On Climate Change. [online] RFI. Available at: <http://www.rfi.fr/en/international/20200403-covid-19-biggest-drop-in-co2-emissions-since-wwii-but-little-impact-on-climate-change> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
  2. Wilkinson, D. and Tellez Chavez, L., 2020. How Covid-19 Could Impact The Climate Crisis. [online] Human Rights Watch. Available at: <https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/16/how-covid-19-could-impact-climate-crisis#> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
  3. Jackson, R., 2020. The Effects Of Climate Change. [online] Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Available at: <https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
  4. United Nations, 2020. First Person: COVID-19 Is Not A Silver Lining For The Climate, Says UN Environment Chief. [online] UN News. Available at: <https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061082> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
  5. Gardiner, B., 2020. Coronavirus Holds Key Lessons On How To Fight Climate Change. [online] Yale E360. Available at: <https://e360.yale.edu/features/coronavirus-holds-key-lessons-on-how-to-fight-climate-change> [Accessed 18 April 2020].
  6. Crawford, V., 2020. How COVID-19 Might Help Us Win The Fight Against Climate Change. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at: <https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/covid-19-climate-change/> [Accessed 18 April 2020].

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