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A breath of fresh air… literally

Climate change during Covid-19

Ever since the pandemic emerged there has been endless grief, suffering and tragedies. Despite this being the case, Covid-19 has had a contrasting impact on the environment, specifically when looking at how the social changes caused by the pandemic has led to its revitalization, and the positive effects of climate change. 

When lockdown first began it was pretty daunting for everyone. This is due to the restrictions that almost seemed impossible to abide by. However, with normal life being postponed with the simple aim to “save lives” and help the NHS, our environment got to reap the benefits. What do I mean by this? Simply that. 

All around the world there have been reports on how the climate has changed for the better. For example, in March 2020 it was published by BBC News that “pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents”. This is because as countries tried to contain the spread of the virus, people were authorised not to travel and to “stay home”. This then led to a massive decrease in road usage which resulted in the prevention of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) being emitted into the air. 

This sudden drop in Carbon emissions has truly created a breath of fresh air. In New York pollution has been reduced by nearly 50% because of measures to contain the virus, China’s emissions fell by 25% and their use of coal fell by 40%. In Europe, satellite images show nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions fading away over northern Italy. It can be argued that if it wasn’t for Covid-19 this profound change in the environment would not have occurred, or at least not at such a rapid pace. Although this creates some optimism in the future of the environment, the question still remains as to whether or not the sudden drop in CO2 emissions is going to have a long-lasting effect on climate change?  

According to Sky News, “new research has estimated emissions at the peak of the global economic shutdown in early April were 17 million tonnes a day lower than the average for 2019- a fall of 17%”. Despite this improvement, Professors such as Corinne Le Quere of the University of East Anglia argue that “we need a much larger effort to move away from fossil energy and use less energy in the future.” This is very true especially since lockdown will not last forever and more people are becoming restless and seeking the urge to travel again which will inevitably increase the level of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Therefore, our efforts to improve the environment need to be consistent and intentional, instead of only happening when there’s a global pandemic. It can be argued that having access to fresh air is fundamental for our growth. Furthermore, if we all aim to reduce the level of pollution in the environment through individual changes such as choosing to walk to certain places instead of driving/ taking public transport we can eventually create and sustain a revolutionary change within our climate. 

Before and after photos from around the world which show the effect that the almost lockdown is having on pollution levels:

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