Coronavirus pandemic may have some environmental benefits


Courtesy of Flickr (Kevin Gill)

Farah Javed, Managing Editor

In these difficult times, it is easy to get swept up in chaos. There are people trampling each other in order to buy in bulk and are depleting resources. In the midst of all this chaos and uncertainty, there is a silver lining: the planet’s health has improved.

Carbon dioxide emissions have decreased drastically, leaving cleaner air in cities across China and Iran — two countries at the top of the list for most COVID-19 cases globally. This is occurring for several reasons. Transportation like cars, trains, and airplanes have been less frequently used or have stopped running overall, causing less emissions to be released into the air.

As a result of this clean air, some of China and Iran’s usually heavily polluted cities like Beijing and Esfahan, respectively, now have clear blue skies. With the factory industry forced to slow down during the pandemic, coal usage has also stagnated. In fact, “Government data shows average concentrations of PM2.5 fine particulate matter dropping to their lowest February levels since 2014 in many cities,” according to Nikkei.

In 2017, China had put the Blue Sky Policy into effect, which strived to decrease pollution and chemical emissions between 2018 and 2020. With many factories and plants closed already due to this law, the quarantine unintentionally sped up their plans for blue skies.

Italy, also having been hit hard from COVID-19, has seen positive environmental effects as well. For the first time in 60 years, the canals in Venice are clear. With a decrease in boat traffic, the streams are no longer polluted and fish are visible below. Though photos circulated claiming dolphins have returned to Venice as well, The National Geographic has said this is false.

With a decrease in tourism, many areas around the world have seen animals in captivity have more freedom. A video of a pack of monkeys as well as deers, roaming around Japan surfaced. The Chicago Shedd Aquarium allowed its penguins to exit their containment areas and walk freely, The Washington Post also reported.

The growing attention given towards the COVID-19 pandemic also brings up another interesting lesson that just because the world is not ready for a pandemic, does not mean it is too late to act. Climate change and the inaction towards it continues to be a growing concern for scientists across the world. While concerns continue to grow over the coronavirus attention towards the climate crisis has diminished, seeing as it is not currently having such an obvious impact.

In fact, “Climate change has already made conditions more favorable to the spread of some infectious diseases, including Lyme disease, waterborne diseases such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus which causes vomiting and diarrhea, and mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever,” according to Environmental Health News.

Climate change is not something that will impact humans millions of years from now. It is right outside Earth’s door, and already affecting more vulnerable areas such as the Caribbean according to The Environmental Defense Fund.

It states that as water levels rise, the frequency of flooding and hurricanes increases. As the earth heats up, heat waves become more frequent, making outdoor work or even leisure unbearable. Even worse, as the climate patterns change, farmers are unable to ward off insects and extreme weather conditions.

If people do not place as much attention on treating the planet better, then the consequences will be insurmountable and irreversible.

Right now, to boost economies in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, countries are once again turning to the cheaper non- renewable energy sources. This is a step backwards in the fight against climate change, and will only exacerbate the situation.

“The International Energy Agency, or IEA, has warned the virus will weaken global investments in clean energy and industry efforts to reduce emissions, and has called on governments to offer stimulus packages that consider climate change.”

If governments release stimulus packages that not only restart the economy but do so sustainably, then the world will be closer to slowing down climate change.

In the midst of a deadly outbreak, the Earth is becoming healthier. In order to ensure that this progress is not lost, it is important to continue being climate conscious after the pandemic has passed and the quarantine is over.