Both BBC and New York Times report that there is a suppression of carbon emissions due to the coronavirus lockdown (Amos 2020 and Crist, 2020).
The satellite maps produced by the Royal Netherlands show the amounts of nitrogen oxide (NO2), a gas pollutant that comes from the use of fossil fuels steeply declined as economic activity significantly slowed down.
The comparison is being made between the average concentration of March 2019 and the concentration for March 14-25, 2020. The 10-day average clears out some variabilities such as weather changes, wind direction and speed – that could contribute to the amounts of NO2 in the atmosphere.
Combining the data from the 10-day average allows scientists to see the impacts on emissions due to changes in human activities.
The satellite maps show reductions of NO2 in the following European countries: Italy – particularly northern Italy where coronavirus outbreak is worst, France, Spain, and Portugal. Scientists also predict the same thing will happen in the UK.
The New York Times reports that something else is happening besides the decline in emissions around the world.
It reports that China and Italy’s air is “strikingly clean,” Venice Grand canal is running clean where before is dirty with boat traffic, and the fog of pollution has lifted in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Chica and Atlanta.
This does not mean, however, that the coronavirus is the solution to the climate problem because it is also a crisis itself.
The fact is, coronavirus is temporary but the threats of climate change in the form of heatwaves, floods, and extreme storms, which also claim human lives are ongoing situations.
Across the Atlantic ocean, emissions have dropped in the United States as well according to the New York Times opinion article by Meehan Crist. But whether this trend continues will depend on consumer’s behaviour and how the government will respond to revive the economy as soon as the pandemic is over.
How the economic response will play out will have impacts on the climate crises in the following decades even up to the next millennia. The article also predicts a slowing down of the clean energy projects like solar, battery and electric-vehicle markets.
The lockdown has already slowed down climate research, research flights to the Arctic have halted, and COP 26, a climate change conference in Glasgow this November have been delayed or would even be cancelled.
Postponing this important conference can quell climate change efforts like climate adaptation and mitigation strategies of all countries who pledged to reduce emissions the article says.
Although China has reduced their emissions by 25% its government have indicated that it will “relax environmental supervision of companies to stimulate its economy”. This could mean more emissions than ever before.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis of the Czech Republic has echoed this sentiment stating that the European Green deal, a European climate policy to reach zero-emissions by 2050, should be set aside for countries to focus on fighting the pandemic.
But then this could go the other way, especially when governments are willing to spend money with urgency amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of these government investments could go to the development and integration of clean energy technologies instead.
The falling oil prices can be an opportunity for governments to remove fossil fuel subsidies and redirecting investments to clean energy projects instead.
The 32-hour workweek that has been touted recently to improve quality of life can be adopted. The timing cannot be more perfect as the massive disruption caused by the coronavirus can make this suggestion a possibility. The result of which can be an effective climate mitigation strategy that could bring down emissions.
The article mentions that while the climate-crises has demonstrated how unsustainable our economy and society set-up is the pandemic, on the other hand, is a “gut-wrenching reality check”.
Climate change and coronavirus are not separate issues but surprisingly connected.
The climate crises tell us that nature is deteriorating because of the pollution we throw at it constantly. From our industries that spew heat-trapping and polluting gases 24-7 into the atmosphere to keep up with economic and consumer demands.
With no urgent climate adaptation and mitigation policies and implementation, more extreme events will come that can affect thousands of lives and undermine economic progress.
Covid-19, on the other hand, is telling us that humans are not invincible, we don’t have all the answers and our actions affects one another. And it is only when we cooperate and unite can we surpass the problem efficiently.
Amos, J. (2020, March 27). Coronavirus: Lockdown continue to suppress European pollution. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-52065140
Crist, M. (2020, March 27). What the Coronavirus Means for Climate Change. The New York Times. [Opinion]. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-climate-change.html