Covid-19 and the environment

Covid-19 and the environment

The world has changed in front of our eyes over the past few months with thousands of people dying and the lives of thousands more transformed.  Could some good come out of this pandemic?

Corona virus originated in Wuhan in China at the end of last year, with the virus rapidly spreading.   Many countries are on lockdown with people practising social distancing and working from home.  Passenger flights have been cancelled and travel restrictions are in place.  All the restrictions have been put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but what has happened to global emissions as a result?

In China, when the virus struck and people were instructed to stay at home, emissions fell by 25% and coal use reduced by 40% at the country’s largest power stations.   There was a reduction in flights over Europe by over 81% on March 31st, compared to the beginning of the month (FlightRadar).  Reports have shown that water in the Venice canals is now clear and blue with cormorants and shoals of fish being seen for the first time in years.  Pollution levels in New York are already at 50% and nitrogen dioxide emissions have decreased over Italy, Spain and UK.

Despite recent campaigning to end climate change, no one could have foreseen that it would take a crisis like Covid-19 to dramatically reduce emissions and put into practice what environmentalists have been concerned about for years.

But what will happen once the restrictions are lifted and the corona virus is under control?  Will we all return to life as it was before?   There are two trains of thought on this.  It has been predicted that some people will begin to appreciate the importance of family and health and, as a result, become less materialistic and want to spend more time with family rather than travelling, whereas some people may react to these months of cabin fever by booking more foreign travel once the restrictions are lifted.  There is also a possibility that people once concerned about climate change have shifted their focus onto Covid-19 and their usual environmentally friendly practices are suddenly forgotten.  Hopefully, this pandemic will force consumers to look at their consumption levels and change habits in the future.

The environmental benefits of this crisis are certainly notable, however, even committed environmentalists would not have wanted it to happen this way.  The loss of life, jobs and the strain on mental health cannot be understated but the pulling together of communities and the obvious desire of individuals to help one another in times of need is inspiring.

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