With people staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a noticeable drop in air pollution as mother nature has been given a bit of a breather. Call it the one silver lining of the coronavirus crisis, if you will, but rivers are becoming cleaner and wildlife is coming back to places it hasn’t been seen in generations, with the dolphins in Venice particularly making headlines across the world.
Is this a change to the environment we can hang onto once the world returns to business as usual? Many commentators have noted that, whilst COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our global health and economy it might just end up leading to longer-lasting falls in carbon emissions.
Facts don’t lie
With transport all but halted and many major industries being put on effective pause until the crisis is averted, there has been a sudden drop in carbon emissions all over the world. In comparison to the same time last year, pollution in New York (one of the most pollutant cities in the world and one of the cities most heavily impacted by the virus) has reduced by almost 50%. That’s a truly shocking fall.
In China, meanwhile, where the pandemic started, emissions fell by 25% at the start of the year. Given the fact that transport makes up almost a quarter of all global emissions, this isn’t exactly surprising but it does lead us to one ineffable conclusion: Should we be travelling more responsibly once the lockdown lifts?
Change for the future
Whether you’re travelling to Portsmouth Harbour or the other side of the world, every journey we take has a cost, not only fiscally but on the environment. Since the world went into effective lockdown, nitrogen dioxide levels in the air have plummeted and this could lead to an eventual increase in cardio-pulmonary health for many. This is, of course, due to a decrease in industrial action but the major decreases have been undoubtedly due to the lack of travel currently taking pale globally.
Not only will this decrease in pollution have a positive impact on the environment but it could actually help to quell the spread of COVID-19 in the future too. Tests are far from conclusive, but there is a chance, according to many environmental scientists, that coronavirus might be able to transport itself, as an airborne virus, on particles of pollution. SO, less pollution means less COVID-19, at least in theory.
Only time will tell if the environmental impact of COVID-19 is a long-term or just a short-term anomaly but it could serve as a necessary wake-up call for many of us that are often guilty of being cavalier with our travel plans. So, once this is all over and done with, maybe it might be time to get that bike out of the shed?