What is the impact of COVID-19 on the Environment?
COVID-19 has impacted and disrupted each and every one of our lives. With Industries and travel halted, what is the effect on the planet?
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Have Drastically Reduced
Road travel in Britain has reduced by as much as 73%, matching the traffic levels of 1955. Carbon monoxide pollution has dropped by 50% in New York and both China and Northern Italy have seen significant falls in nitrogen dioxide. CO2 emissions are at their peak in May as leaves decompose but scientists believe the levels recorded this year could be the lowest since the financial crisis!
Seismologists around the world are noticing huge differences in vibrations caused by reductions in human activity which means that earthquakes would be detected much sooner. Noise pollution in both cities and even through the oceans has been noticeably reduced.
The canals of Venice are clearing as boats are no longer stirring up sediment and wildlife has been photographed across the world returning to urban areas.
An Accurate Picture
While we naturally want to believe in the planet’s capacity to heal this quickly, we have to be conscious of content sources with false images of swans, dolphins and elephants ‘returning’ to tourist areas are going viral. Some wildlife scientists are predicting a drop in urban wildlife as food sources that came with pedestrians, restaurants and tourism have dwindled.
Fine particles (that can irritate the respiratory system) have not been reduced and in some places such as Paris, actually increased as more energy is used to heat homes.
The reductions in China over their lockdown period are only going to lead to a 1% drop in their overall emissions this year as emissions could rise sharply as the pandemic ends to overcompensate production losses.
What could the future look like?
The overall environmental impact is dependent on how governments re-stimulate the economy and don’t leave climate change goals on the back-burner. While we are experiencing drops in emissions, it is still far from the reduction goals we need to surpass to reverse the damage we have already done. Environmental action could be postponed as health, safety and economic recovery are prioritised.
Having to drastically alter our way of life could be a catalyst for positive environmental change!
We are learning what is now capable online and what we can make do without.
Consumption is dropping as social requirements for ‘things’ are put into perspective and financial hardship is forcing a lot of us to be more mindful with how we spend.
Businesses that previously had inflexible working will have discovered that teams can still work effectively remotely, opening the door to introduce flexible working as an option. At Earth Rewards we work remotely to minimise the corporate carbon footprint as we have no overheads and no commute related emissions.
For better or for worse, the pandemic is reshaping the social and environmental world that we live in.
The best way to combat anxieties around the future is by taking action to avoid feelings of helplessness.