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How Coronavirus Will Impact Climate Change

By Anvita Gurumurthy

We recently published a blog post on how coronavirus has caused a huge decrease in carbon emissions in the past few months. Even in the most polluted cities, like Hong Kong and Delhi, air quality is improving. For example, in China, emissions were down at least 25% in the month of February. In Venice, fish and swans can finally be seen in the canals for the first time in years! It is likely that this trend will continue as long as the lockdowns do, and while this may be great news, there are definitely downsides to it. One is the idea of “revenge pollution”: since companies have not been able to produce items for so long, they will do so at a higher rate after the lockdown and this will result in even more pollution than normal. Additionally, due to the pandemic, climate research is being halted. Everything from fieldwork, to NASA missions, to flights to the Arctic, is on pause as of now. We are losing valuable research that could be vital to our understanding of climate change. World conferences to discuss climate change are cancelled, and along with them months of global progress. The calling off of public protests will also be harmful, as leaders’ attention is already diverted and will continue to go toward public health and the economy rather than climate change. Speaking of the economy, while focusing on reviving it, leaders are likely to relax restrictions on emissions and therefore worsen climate change. The coronavirus pandemic brings both good and bad news for climate change. While the lockdowns bring a beneficial short-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, it is likely that the long-term effects will be detrimental to the state of the environment. In these confusing and strange times, it is hard to tell exactly how the environment will come out of the pandemic, but in the meanwhile, check out our post on staying sustainable in lockdown to see some things you can do at home to help the Earth. No action is too small!

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