But, could it have a silver lining? Could one possible perk of all of this be that it gives a chance for our environment to bounce back? Could we see long-lasting positive environmental change after the pandemic?
That would be one of the few nice side benefits of the devastation, suffering and death that results from COVID-19. Unfortunately, according to McGill University associate professor and epidemiologist Jill Baumgartner, as reported to the New York Times, “It’s not a sustainable way to reduce air pollution, and the long-term economic and well-being impacts of this crisis are going to be devastating for many people.”
In the short run, however, since the beginning of the pandemic, there are close ties to reduced climate emissions, CO2 in particular. Air pollution levels have dropped significantly since measures such as quarantines and shutdowns were put in place. Around the world, levels of harmful pollutants like NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), CO (carbon monoxide), SO2 (sulfur dioxide) and PM2.5 (small particulate matter) have plummeted.
For the first time in quite some time, clear water has been found in the canals of Venice, Italy. Clearer skies are noted over major cities.
Due to lockdowns, oil consumption and airline travel has been drastically diminished, which has helped reduce carbon emissions. But at the expense of our health and economy, it is hardly the way we want to improve the climate and environment.
Will it last? The radical changes to daily life that we see now are not – thankfully – going to be permanent. Historically, when emissions have fallen sharply as they do after recessions, there is often a rocketing rebound that wipes out any short-term cut in emissions.
Can we expect this to be the case after this COVID-19 crisis abates? Or, could a silver lining result from this horrible COVID crisis?
It up to us, really. We will all be going to go back to some form of pre-COVID activity. Children must get back to school; we need to get back to work. The vaccines will soon be making a difference. So what will it take to make environmental gains more long-lasting?
Experts say we must collectively approach our environmental crisis with the same urgency as we have the COVID-19 crisis if we are to lessen the effects of global warming. That puts the responsibility squarely on us.