The effects of Coronavirus means 2020 has been a very difficult time indeed for many people across the globe. One silver lining to this international health crisis is the reduction in carbon emissions as commuters in many countries stop travelling. Industry has been halted and construction workers across Europe, America and the Far East have downed tools for many weeks. China alone is estimated to have averted the creation of an output of “200 megatonnes of CO2” which is great news for green campaigners. (1)
“Researchers have already seen massive drops in the release of nitrogen dioxide, with parts of China showing pollution levels up to 30 per cent lower than normal. In northern Italy, nitrogen dioxide levels have fallen by as much as 40 per cent.” states Chris Stockel-Walker at Esquire this week. (2)
Matt Simon at Wired magazine quoted one expert called Hausfather explaining that “Ironically, it may well end up being that because air pollution is such a public health hazard in China, the economic slowdown might actually save more lives than the coronavirus kills,” (3)
In the UK and several other countries all non essential travel is banned. On government instruction everyone is staying at home and not going to school and work. The emergency and care services are both one of few exceptions to this rule. People carrying out roles that are key to the running of a country, such as supermarkets and pharmacies are permitted to carry on trading.
Most businesses are closed and normal everyday meetings are forbidden. Therefore there a millions of cars that are not being driven and thousands of train, underground and bus services that are not running to their normal schedules. Nobody is travelling abroad for work or leisure, so hardly any jet fuel is being burned in the skies in Europe, for the first time since the 1930’s.
Shops and restaurants use very large amounts of electricity for equipment, lighting and refrigeration and as many of these organisations are closed, they are not drawing the enormous amounts of power as they would usually. Big events such as football games and music concerts use massive amounts of kilowatts per hour, plus all the transportation of the fans that is also part of the fossil fuels that are burned to make these occasions possible. Although we all want to celebrate our culture and enjoy sport, this extreme situation has highlighted what measures we could take, if we were all absolutely intent on reaching our goals to improve the environment and halt the impact of global warming.
The current pandemic has demonstrated what the priorities are for running a successful society. Food retailing, social services, healthcare (including pharmaceutical), waste collection, financial, postal and delivery services and the council and emergency services all have important roles to play. Basic train, underground and bus services are also vital to help key workers get to work and vulnerable people access medical services.
The generous government package offered to employees and the self employed by the chancellor Rishi Sunak shows the scale of the disruption to the economy which is happening this month. The forced closure of so many industries this week may lead to a very tough times ahead for every citizen in this country and abroad where similar situations exist. Many companies are now ‘surviving’ at best and there is talk of a future recession until economic momentum can be re-established.
However millions of people across the UK are using the internet to enable them to work, shop, socialise, entertain and connect in ways they have never been motivated to do before. This may lead to the final demise of the High Street but we may inadvertently actually be able to make a real difference to air quality and the environment through our sudden and drastic changes of behaviour. Virtual meetings are becoming the new norm and new software such as Zoom are popping up, to help groups of people communicate effectively.
Covid-19 is a undoubtedly a nightmare for anyone that works for Easy Jet or other aviation companies who rely on commercial and holiday travellers. A benefit of all this chaos is that environmental campaigners are rejoicing. This pandemic is an opportunity for world leaders to work together and for everyone to rethink what we do and how we do it. In the process of changing our habits we can avoid burning fossil fuels unnecessarily and make some progress at actually saving our wonderful planet for future generations to enjoy.
(1) ‘Coronavirus could cause fall in global CO2 emissions’ Jonathan Watts, The Guardian
10 March 2020 Guardian Coronavirus fall in CO2 emissions
(2) ‘Coronavirus Timeline: How The World Will Change Over The Next 18 Months’
Chris Stockel-Walker, Esquire Magazine 25 March 2020 Esquire, Coronavirus: How World Will Change
(3) ‘The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Bringing Down Emissions, but Not for Long’ Matt Simon, Wired Magazine
3 March 2020 Wired: Coronavirus: Bringing Down Emissions
(4) Zoom for video, conference rooms and phone
01 April 2020 Zoom software website