Sudden Lifestyle Shift to Avoid Getting Covid-19 Impacts Climate Change

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According to the New York Times article, “Social Distancing? You Might Be Fighting Climate Change, Too” the new lifestyle or habits that we have acquired by necessity to safeguard against contracting the coronavirus have some positive impacts on climate change.

As of the publishing of this post, you might have read or watched on the news that countries have announced travel restrictions on all modes of transportations, both local and international, in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

A lot of big gatherings on sports, concerts, conventions, local and international, have been cancelled. People who have come from other countries that have an ongoing coronavirus outbreak are required by their mother countries to self-isolate for at least 14 days.

Dr Kimberly Nicholas, a researcher at Lund University Center for Sustainability in Sweden said that the source of our biggest carbon emissions comes from these three lifestyles: getting on an airplane, car, and, eating an animal (Schwartz, 2020).  

Schwartz (2020) says further:

  • People who are avoiding travel by air and car because of coronavirus are already 2/3 on the way to reducing carbon emissions according to Dr Nicholas.  She is the author of a 2018 study that looks at the GHG emissions reductions through people’s behaviour in fighting against climate change, and now writing a book on personal action and the climate crisis, the article says.  
  • But now, due to the virus, things have changed drastically. People are limiting travel and mobility by working from home and abstaining from social interactions.
  • Social distancing is already reducing greenhouse gas emissions which is an effective climate mitigating actions in itself.

But how long will these habits stick after the coronavirus is contained, such as working from home, travelling less, ordering groceries online, avoiding unnecessary social gatherings, etc. will probably depend on the benefits or rewards a person get from these activities.

Climate change and coronavirus have something in common

Climate change and coronavirus, do they have something in common? According to Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, both demands early aggressive action to minimize loss (Sengupta, 2020).

Sengupta (2020) explains more:

  • The World Health Organization claimed at one point that it is an ‘alarming levels of inaction’ referring to the global response to the coronavirus. A familiar phrase to those who have been pushing drastic actions against climate change.
  • Both demands early aggressive action to minimize loss or to ‘flatten the curve’.  Scientists have been calling on world leaders to do more climate actions to reduce emissions. Now they said that inaction has led to extreme climatic events like the 3-month long flood in the Florida Keys, wildfires in Australia, and deadly heatwaves in Europe.
  • Dr Elke Weber a behavioural scientist at Princeton University said that how we are responding to climate change, stems from how our brain works. He said that our brains are bad at thinking about tomorrow and climate science which deals in future probabilities is hard for us to be afraid of and hard for our brains to process. Because our brains have been wired to take care of the here and now.
  • How our leaders and policymakers have been delaying actions on climate change is giving us lessons on how to fight the coronavirus now. Though it may be costly now to act on these future threats, it is important to enact policies that will protect us in the not too distant future.  
  • A big challenge still remains for climate change, these include halving global emissions over the next decade to keep temperature rise within 1.5 C degrees because failure to do so will lead in more catastrophes like coastline inundation, worsening of wildfires and droughts as early as 2040.

A study by the University of Chicago researchers projected that by 2100 climate change will kill as many people who died of cancer and infectious diseases today.

The big question remains after the coronavirus is contained, will there be an acceleration of emissions to revive the global economy?

Sengupta’s article says it depends on big emitters like China and the US whether to enact green growth policies or continue with fossil-fuels.

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has been calling on world leaders to end wasteful subsidies for fossil fuels and take more ambitious climate change preventive actions.

Let us continue to be vigilant in taking care of our health and our environment as we go through the coronavirus pandemic.


Schwartz, J. (2020, March 13). Social Distancing? You Might Be Fighting Climate Change, Too. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Sengupta, S. (2020, March 12). Climate Change Has Lessons for Fighting the Coronavirus. The New York Times. Retrieved from

PHOTO CREDIT: By Original author: Pharexia – This vector image includes elements that have been taken or adapted from this file:  BlankMap-World.svg.Data derived from Johns Hopkins University CSSE, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York Times, CNBC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

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