Global carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry could fall by a record 2.5bn tonnes this year, a reduction of 5%, as the coronavirus pandemic triggers the biggest drop in demand for fossil fuels on record. The unprecedented restrictions on travel, work and industry due to the coronavirus has ensured several days with good quality air in our choked cities. Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents. Is this just a fleeting change, or could it lead to longer-lasting falls in emissions?
Excerpts from the debate:
How COVID-19 is impacting the environment?
Almost every country of the world is now on lockdown. Life, as we know it, has changed beyond all recognition.
With people prevented from leaving their homes and most travel plans either cancelled or postponed, the significant decrease in the use of transport, including regular car journeys, commercial flights, cruises & public buses/trains is giving the planet some much-needed respite.
COVID-19 is causing global trade to be disrupted, flights are being canceled, and many people are now working or staying at home.
However, all the negative effects of coronavirusare restricted to the mankind only.
As far as our co-owners of the earth are concerned, the flora and fauna as well as the nature itself, they are enjoying the positives out of this deadly virus.
What changes it has brought?
Clear sky: Over the decades gone by, most of the cities around the world actually forgot the colour of the sky. Today, when the production of almost everything is on halt and factories are no longer as active as they used to be, the emission of smoke has lessened which has resulted in clear sky.
Clean air: The cloth producing factories have been shut and a lot more similar industries have also come to halt. Not only this, there have been minimal use of vehicles on road. All this have contributed towards lowered CO2-emissions. Not only this, the emission of nitrogen dioxide has also reduced. This indicates that air has become more pure implying that we can once again breathe pure and naturally filtered air.
Reduced pressure on resources: To combat coronavirus, companies have asked workers to work from home. This has reduced vehicles on road. In addition to this, the consumption of plastic has also reduced as people no longer have tea or coffee in those disposable glasses. Also, they now print less and shop less. In one way or the other, all of this is contributing towards the good health of the environment.
Self-realization: Now people are forced to stay back home, almost all of them have ample time to think and reflect on their actions. People have now become aware about how they have been wasting water, electricity and again and a lot of similar things. They have found themselves guilty of having wasted so many natural resources. This guilt of self-realization is helping mankind to eradicate all the wrong that has been done.
How long will the changes last?
The drop in global carbon dioxide emissions is, for the moment, temporary. They will likely revert back to pre-coronavirus levels if global economies resume as before.
If overall recorded global emissions for 2020 fall due to the coronavirus induced drop this could encourage a false sense that global emissions are on a long-term decline and reinforces how difficult it is to reduce emissions in an economically sustainable way.
However, as many experts argue, there are valuable lessons to be learnt from our response to the outbreak of COVID-19 and these can be applied to the climate emergency by putting health equity at the heart of all policymaking and drastically changing the way we live and consume in order to reduce global emissions, reach the 1.5 degree target and achieve a sustainable global green economy.
Is it the first time any epidemic has affected the environment?
This is not the first time an epidemic has left its mark on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
Throughout history, the spread of disease has been linked to lower emissions – even well before the industrial age.
The epidemics such as the Black Death in Europe in the 14th Century, and the epidemics of diseases such as smallpox brought to South America with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century.
Both left subtle marks on atmospheric CO2 levels.
In a matter of months, the world has been transformed. Thousands of people have already died, and hundreds of thousands more have fallen ill, from a coronavirus. There is no denying the fact that coronavirus has had catastrophic impacts on mankind. However, it has surely given the environment a chance to self-heal and reclaim what belongs to nature. It is a big lesson for humans to mend their ways otherwise nature knows how to reclaim what belongs to it. Though it has already been too late for humans to eradicate their actions but it is rightly said that better late than never. Hope mother earth heals itself soon and give its children to take care of it once again by helping world to get rid of this pandemic.