Will Coronavirus Benefit Our Environment?

Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the world economy and people’s lives however recent studies have suggested that the global slowdown of people will lead to improved air quality and will have some beneficial effects on the environment.

In China, where the start of the outbreak occurred, there has been a large drop in demand for coal, oil and steel leading to a 25% fall in C02 emissions in the country. Italy and China have both recorded relatively low levels of nitrogen dioxide as well as this – a gas related to motor vehicles and industrial factories.

As more people choose to self-isolate and work from home, the demand for flights and other forms of transport has been reduced significantly.

New NASA research suggests that the amount of Nitrogen Oxide above Wuhan, where corona virus is first thought to have broken-out, has dropped significantly.

Dr Audrey de Nazelle of Imperial College London supports the view that the environment will benefit from Covid-19, “I do think there’s a silver lining in that hopefully we’ll understand the vulnerabilities of the current way our society functions, and perhaps understand that we may operate differently in the future.” She suggests that we learn from this situation and will hopefully benefit further down the line.

In Venice, one of the hotspots for coronavirus in Italy, the canals have changed colour. Before Italy’s period of self-isolation, the Venice canals were grey and full of human waste from the activity on the canals; now they are clear and for the first time in a while on some parts of the canal you can see the bottom through the clearer, translucent water.  

However, these positive impacts on the environment may only be temporary.

After Covid-19 slows down factories may significantly ramp up production to make up for the losses they will have made during the period.

Professor Martin Steigert suggests that “Coronavirus will have a short-term impact on carbon emissions, but this will be short lived and probably not significant to the upward trend in emissions unless we tackle this specifically.”

Experts have suggested that this positive impact on the environment is only temporary; to have a lasting impact humans must continue to use less transport and reduce production for a more significant period of time.

Mr Steigert also questions the funding for the environment post-Covid-19: “There is a serious negative issue. We need trillions of dollars to invest in the zero-carbon transition. Is the funding that is rightly offered to everyone to beat covid-19 going to hamper our ability to drive the zero-carbon transition?”

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