Over 24,000 deaths and counting. Over 500,000 cases worldwide. Several places have shut down, leaving the world in chaos. It can be hard to stay positive during these dark times, but environmentalist have tried to find a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shutdowns due to the Corona Virus have started to have climate benefits. NBC states that recent satellite observations showcase significant decreases in harmful emissions worldwide. These environmental benefits are becoming more and more evident in China, where the disease originated. Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at Finland’s Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, says that due to Chinese restrictions in industrial activity, electricity production and transportation, China’s carbon dioxide emission has dropped 25% since late January. Another environmental organization, Earth Economics, developed a way to track and compare air quality in San Francisco, New York City and Seattle, finding that in San Francisco alone the amount of dangerous chemicals polluting the air was 40% lower than the previous year.
But are these environmental changes just temporary? Environmentalists argue that while the reduction in air pollution is not sustainable for long-term climate change, COVID-19 may cause businesses to take a more environmental approach. Birmingham explains that companies will be tasked with developing strategies to reduce potential pandemics. These potential strategies, including reshoring and redesigning, could reduce the environmental impacts of internationalization. Randolph Bell, director at the Global Energy Center discussed potential concerns with the Atlantic Council: “A reduction in emissions this year may buy a little extra time to act on climate change. But if the economic slowdown ends up hindering the development and deployment of clean energy technologies, which the International Energy Agency has said is likely, and if policymakers do not act to use their massive economic stimulus plans to support the low-carbon transition… the remarkable satellite images of pollution will return to the way they looked before.” This harsh reality has made environmentalists urge the public to stay in the fight against climate change and do their part in living a sustainable lifestyle.
Along with reduced carbon emissions, the situations regarding COVID-19 has had a visible environmental impact. Dramatic drops in pollution levels of major cities has given the earth time to breath. France 24 states that less boats and traffic has led to the canals of Venice to become clearer.
While these environmental benefits caused by COVID-19 may just be temporary, CNBC says that these impacts could offer a glimpse into how the world is equipped to deal with the climate change crisis. As far as environmental benefits, we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, make sure to be safe, wash your hands and stay home!