Corona vs. Climate
Updated: Sep 21
When the two most significant current issues, climate change and the Coronavirus, are juxtaposed next to one another, people would usually regard them as unrelated. However, many recent reports and studies show that the two are closely linked: Coronavirus has reduced pollution in our environment.
The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that was first identified in WuHan, China. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in early January, the virus has infected over 2,000,000 people and killed over 130,000 worldwide. Countries with high numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, most notably the United States, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China, and Iran, have sealed their borders and locked-down cities to restrict resident movements and reduce the rate of infection.
However, countries under strict lockdowns experienced unintended climate and environmental benefits. As evident in the data presented by China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the number of "good quality air days increased by 21.5% in February, compared to the same period last year". China's carbon dioxide concentration decreased by 25% over China, as industrial operations reduced by 15% to 40%, and coal consumption at power plants decreased by 36%. In Venice, Italy, the murky canals became clearer. Many near-sea ecosystems started to recover, and animals began to move back into the city.
The climate in the United States also improved significantly. According to the statistics updated by Jordan Wildish, a project director at the NPO Earth Economics, air pollution is assuaged considerably in many major industrial cities: San Francisco has a 40% decrease of air polluting particles, while New York City has a 28% decrease and Seattle has a 32% decrease. The statistics also indicate that the reduction of greenhouse gas emission is caused by lesser transportations and human activities and government policies.
Although the restrictions on industrial and human activities have brought great environmental benefits, experts warned that these benefits are temporary, as they will disappear after the virus is contained and the economies bounce back. To us, citizens of Earth, the only way to maintain the benefits is to rethink our aspects of the environment and change our actions accordingly.
"As we move to restart these economies, we need to use this moment to think about what we value," said Jacqueline Klopp, the co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University in New York City. "Do we want to go back to the status quo, or do we want to tackle these big structural problems and restructure our economy and reduce emissions and pollution?"
In addition to societal and personal awareness of climate change, actions from major infrastructures are also essential to maintain the environmental benefits. According to NewYorkTimes, after the pandemic outbreak in the United States, major airlines in the United States requested monetary support from the government due to the frequent flights' cancellation and prohibition. On March 18, eight Senate Democrats signed a letter which stated that the government would provide financial support to airlines with terms and policies that require them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
"If we give the airline and cruise industries assistance without requiring them to be better environmental stewards, we will miss a major opportunity to combat climate change and ocean dumping," Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democrat of Rhode Island, stated after signing the letter.
If more actions similar to the letter proposed by Senate Democrats are taken by the government, along with actions taken by us, our environment can be a better place to live in and many severe environmental issues can be assuaged. Here are some suggestions we encourage you to take while in quarantine:
Try meatless meals. As meat is an important part of our diet and culture, it is also making the planet sick. The livestock sector that raises cows, pigs, and chickens generate as much greenhouse gas emissions as all the automobiles combined.
Save electricity. Use energy-efficient light bulbs instead of regular bulbs and lower your air conditioning or heat. As coal is one of the fuels that generate electricity, more electricity usage means more greenhouse gas emissions.
Avoid wasting food. The majority of wasted food will end up in landfills and then break down to produce methane and carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change.
Avoid wasting water. Water is a scarce resource. It is essential to save water for future generations.
Look up articles about climate change. Learn something new about climate change or how you can help to improve our climate. It is crucial to educate oneself about climate change before changing what others are doing.
Use fewer plastic products. Plastic is like climate change and pollutes at every stage: from material extraction to product production to waste disposal. Plastic product usage contributes to polluting valuable water sources and killing organisms in natural habitats like the Ocean.
Attend an online climate strike. Search up climate strike online. Although the effort might seem futile, climate strike motivates more people to be aware of climate change and take action against it. Here are some online climate strike websites: https://strikewithus.org, https://www.fridaysforfuture.org, https://globalclimatestrike.net
Search up challenges to do that can help improve the environment. Since April is the month of Earth Day, there are many websites and challenges online created to help our environment. Here are some climate challenge websites: https://earthday.ecochallenge.org, https://drawdown.ecochallenge.org).
"If we can think about how to prepare for climate change like a pandemic, maybe there will be a positive outcome to all of this," said Christopher Jones, lead developer of the CoolClimate Network, an applied research consortium at the University of California, Berkeley. "We can help prevent crises in the future if we are prepared. I think there are some big-picture lessons here that could be very useful." Let us all try to prevent future climate changes and preserve our home, Earth, for us and future generations.