By Ava Aschettino
The virus that has stolen the lives of over 350,000 and counting has impacted the world in ways no one could have imagined just a few months ago. As countries around the world remain under lockdown and citizens are social distancing, restaurants, stores, and jobs across the globe have boarded up their windows. While this pandemic has plagued the likes of many, not all are suffering; in fact, many environmentalists are happy.
Currently, the atmosphere is experiencing carbon dioxide reductions six times greater than those recorded after the 2009 financial crisis, and according to the New York Times, “a far bigger drop than at any point during the Great Depression or at the end of World War II, when much of Europe lay in ruins.”
This unprecedented rate is due to the limitations put in place by governments across the map, advising or forcing more than 4 billion people to stay home. In contrast to 2019, there has been an 8 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions, with a predicted drop of 2.6 billion tons according to a report from the International Energy Agency. From that same report, by mid-April, energy use in many countries was 17 percent to 25 percent lower than the year prior.
The New York Times elaborates on causes of the carbon dioxide dip, adding, “The world’s use of oil fell nearly 5 percent in the first quarter of this year.... By March, global road transport was down nearly 50 percent, and air traffic was down 60 percent, compared to 2019.”
In the absence of human interference, wildlife have made some of their own adjustments. During this lockdown, there are reports across the world of animals casually strolling through human populated territories, from small suburban communities to massive cities. Spottings include groundhogs roaming around Philadelphia, wild boars in the streets of Barcelona, coyotes frolicking in San Francisco, and goats exploring the Windy City, Chicago. Yes, goats are wandering Chicago.
From the New York Times, Joanna Lambert, a wildlife biologist, explained just why these animals are wandering the streets of major cities, adding, “They are paying attention, and certainly things have quieted down. One of the hallmarks of species that live near or within human settlements is that they are very behaviorally flexible and responsive to these kinds of changes.”
Nature has also made some efforts to revive itself during this outbreak. Due to the temporary decrease in pollution, there are noticable changes to the environment. The water quality in major cities such as Los Angeles and Buenos Aires has taken a turn for the better. The Earth appears to be thriving as the impacts of Covid-19 uproot the lives of billions.
However, scientists believe that the environment’s progress could take a turn once the world reopens. According to The Washington Post, after previous crises, the environment has rebounded with emissions being greater than any prior declines, with all the progress made quickly lost. According to the New York Times, in order to see progress that will stick, “global emissions would have to fall nearly 8 percent every single year between now and 2030 if countries hoped to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which world leaders have deemed necessary for avoiding catastrophic social, economic and environmental damage from climate change.”
Some scientists have seen this pandemic as an example of just how quickly the Earth can rebound from the damages of climate change. Many are also pleased at the fact that there is an uptick in converting to renewable sources of energy. The Washington Post elaborates on this evolution, explaining, “Many countries are using significantly less electricity as office buildings, restaurants and movie theaters close. But because existing wind turbines and solar panels cost little to operate, they tend to get priority on electric grids, which means they are still operating closer to full capacity, while fossil-fuel plants are allowed to run less frequently.”
Scientists hope to see that this increase in usage of renewable energy will slow the effects of climate change, even after fossil fuel emission inevitably bounces back, hitting harder than ever before.
While this pandemic inflicts pandemonium upon many, one who does not seem to suffer these same complications is Mother Nature. While these social distancing limitations are temporary, the results could have a lasting impact. This begs the question: how can we continue to help the environment once the quarantine is out of the equation?
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