Environmentally friendly

Coronavirus pollution: does COVID-19 bring benefits for the climate?

Since the outbreak began, scientists have seen reductions in coronavirus pollution in all lockdown areas of the world. As COVID-19 spreads, CO2 emissions are falling and the earth can breathe much better. The pandemic is keeping the economies in Europe and around the world in check, but it is having a positive impact on the environment. The levels of air pollutants and warming gases in some cities and regions are decreasing significantly. This could affect work and travel due to the low level of coronavirus pollution and the coronavirus crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a global health crisis, forcing economies to shut down in the face of tough measures. However, the outbreak is also having fascinating effects on the earth’s environment as nations restrict the mobility of people.

Delayed due to coronavirus pollution?

man with rubber gloves holds globe in his hands

So the pandemic is halting industrial activity and temporarily lowering air pollution around the world. At least that is what the satellite images of the European Space Agency have shown. Experts claim the sudden change is the greatest experiment ever in terms of reducing industrial emissions. The measured values ​​of the ESA satellite Sentinel-5P show that in the last six weeks the nitrogen dioxide content (NO2 limit values) in cities and industrial areas in Asia and Europe was significantly lower than in the same period of the previous year.

several residents in china wuhan city with protective masks walking on the streets

Nitrogen dioxide is generated from car engines, power plants, and other industrial processes and is believed to exacerbate respiratory diseases such as asthma. While the pollutant is not itself a greenhouse gas, it comes from the same activities and industrial sectors that are responsible for a large part of the world’s carbon emissions and that drive global warming. Reducing air pollution could bring some health benefits. However, it is unlikely to make up for the loss of life from the disease. High levels of air pollution exacerbate virus uptake as it lowers immunity. Agriculture could also get a boost as low levels of coronavirus pollution are slowing crop growth.

Stop the virus from spreading with cleaner air

empty gondolas next to san marco square in venice during corona crisis at sunset

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes NO2 as a toxic gas that causes significant inflammation of the airways at concentrations above 200 micrograms per cubic meter. Particles of dirt can also be a vector for pathogens and exacerbate existing health problems. The WHO is currently investigating whether polluting air particles can be a factor that spreads Covid-19 and makes it more virulent. The Chinese city of Wuhan, which was strictly closed in late January, saw one of the biggest declines in coronavirus pollution. The city of 11 million people serves as a major transportation hub and is home to hundreds of factories that supply auto parts and other hardware to global supply chains. According to NASA, nitrogen dioxide levels in east and central China were 10 to 30% lower than normal.

man discusses health status with doctor via video conference from home from home office

With aviation also stalling and millions of people working from home, a number of emissions in many countries are likely to follow the same downward arrow. While people who work from home are likely to use heating and electricity more frequently, curbing commuting and the general slowdown in the economy are likely to have a positive impact on overall emissions. What is likely to have a material impact on the levels of these CO2 emissions and air pollution is the decision by governments to revive their economies once the pandemic subsides. As early as 2008/09, after the global financial crisis, these emissions rose by 5% due to economic spending that boosted fossil fuel consumption. For this reason, we try to list some of the important advantages and consequences of the corona crisis for the environment below.

Improve air quality

young girl wears black protective mask due to the coronavirus spread

While other factors could have contributed to the decrease in pollutants, including a change in weather conditions during the pandemic, human activities such as transportation and industry directly affect nitrogen dioxide levels. For this reason, it is plausible that the decrease is a result of the quarantine. NASA observed a decrease in air pollution for the first time in the Chinese province of Hubei. The coronavirus outbreak began there in December. The Chinese government locked down Wuhan and other cities on Jan. 23 to contain the virus, causing normal life to come to a standstill. This is the first time any particular event has caused such a dramatic decline over such a wide area. In Madrid, the Spanish General Directorate also recorded a 14 percent drop in rush hour traffic.

microscopic view of coronavirus detailed illustration

The European Commission brought the Spanish capital to court last year for failing to comply with the limit values ​​for air pollution. Researchers calculate that the improvements in air quality seen in China may have saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70. Even more conservative estimates put the number of lives saved at around 20 times the number of deaths from the virus. It seems clearly wrong and daring to conclude that pandemics are good for health. However, the calculation may be a useful reminder of the often hidden health consequences of the current state.

Coronavirus environmental pollution from greenhouse gas emissions

Sign rusted coronavirus symbol ban

The slowdown in economic activity is also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, if only temporarily. With federal states ordering schools, shops and factories to close, these emissions are expected to drop significantly very soon. The last decrease in CO2 emissions was during the 2008-2009 economic crisis. As the economy picked up, so did demand for coal and other fossil fuels, especially in China, the world’s largest emitter. A study by the specialist retailer Carbon Brief showed that such emissions in China have fallen by around 25 percent. Another factor that could dampen emissions growth is lower oil demand. The International Energy Agency said global oil demand is expected to decline this year as the effects of the new coronavirus spread around the world, restricting travel and general economic activity.

Disinfection of public areas during coronavirus quarantine

The pandemic affects the energy markets in a broader sense, but the oil markets are hardest hit by dealing a heavy blow to the demand for fuels for transportation. As the virus’ impact spreads to other parts of the world, what happens in China will have a significant impact on global energy and oil markets. In Europe, industrial emissions are largely stagnating, although transport emissions have increased in recent years. There could also be a decline in emissions there as more governments impose bans. An assessment for Europe would, however, be made at a later date as the situation is evolving quickly and the restrictions, even in Italy, have only recently started. As more people stay at home, the demand for home entertainment could increase energy consumption.

Waste during the pandemic

Coffee offer disposable cups recyclable goods environmentally friendly

For example, the Starbucks coffee chain has decided to stop accepting reusable cups from customers. There, drinks are only served in disposable cups that are not recyclable in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There were also warnings against the consumption of packaged food, for example at work events. Despite efforts by the European Food Safety Authority to reassure people that there is as yet no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.

Dispose of mouthguard face mask as medical waste during covid-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, China is choking on medical waste in the form of face masks and protective clothing produced by hospitals. In the city of Wuhan, the volume of medical waste is said to have quadrupled to more than 200 tons per day. However, such articles that have come into contact with infected patients must be incinerated to avoid further contamination that can occur during recycling.

Clear water and more animals in urban areas

venice canal clear water due to low coronavirus pollution fewer boats

In some cities, such as Venice, the pandemic is having unexpected effects on the environment. Several social media users have reported that the water appears unusually clear in famous canals that are practically empty due to the coronavirus lockdown. However, the unexpected clarity of the water is not necessarily a sign of improved water quality. Perhaps the most important factor behind this phenomenon, according to experts, is the unusual lack of boat traffic. Usually the large number of boats stirs up sediments and increases the turbidity of the water. Now that there is a lack of boat traffic, these sediments stay on the bottom of the canals, making them appear much clearer than normal. The huge reduction in the number of tourists and commuters in the city can also lead to an improvement in water quality, as less wastewater is discharged into the canals.

The measures under quarantine over COVID-19 also appear to have an impact on wildlife around the world. This is due to the fact that people are increasingly confined to their homes. In Japan, for example, sika deer have been seen living in the popular tourist destination of Nara Park. They found food in urban areas after restrictions on visitors from China and South Korea were introduced.

sika deer in japan streets looking for food due to corona crisis few people

Usually tourists buy special snacks to feed the deer. Many animals have gotten used to eating these treats. Furthermore, a video was made in Thailand of a lot of monkeys fighting for leftovers in the city of Lopburi. The animals depend on food given to them by tourists, but the number of visitors has dropped dramatically in the past few weeks.

The corona crisis and climate change

earth satellite image coronavirus environmental pollution significantly reduced improved air quality few co2 emissions

With the virus attracting everyone’s attention, the climate problem has been removed from the agenda. The European Parliament has decided not to debate the EU’s new climate law. This happened after the plenary session was shortened to minimize human exposure. Parliament President David Sassoli then quarantined himself for two weeks.

Measures against covid-19 doctors gathered

The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg urged her followers via Instagram to continue the ongoing protests in cyberspace in the future. The COVID-19 pandemic is already changing the lives of millions of people around the world. For now, forces are understandably focused on addressing the growing public health crisis. But what could be the possible long-term effects on the environment?

people with protective clothing in the car

In the long term, many experts are talking about how the pandemic offers lessons and opportunities for environmental action. For example, people will have a new foundation for what can be done online: teleworking, education, shopping, etc. As governments, institutions and social networks succeed in coming together, the world’s population may feel more empowered to do so take over.

Holding blood samples in hand spreading covid-19 worldwide

The low coronavirus pollution is encouraging issues such as climate change and the transition to sustainable energy sources. On the other hand, difficult economic times could undermine enthusiasm for environmental protection. Logically, people prioritize their health, safety and previous lifestyle. For example, if consumers turn their backs on solar and electric vehicles, the pandemic could slow progress towards decarbonization.