Par Elisabeth Huynh, étudiante ESTA Belfort, 05/2020
Mots-clés: #Coronavirus #Air pollution #Climate change #Environment
Since the beginning of year 2020, the coronavirus also well known as COVID-19 has spread all over the world turning into a pandemic which causes several lockdowns. Industries, factories and stores ending up shutting down their business, traffic has declined and flights have been cancelled for several weeks. During this severe crisis, nature and environment show sudden improvement and changes.
The following text will further explain the impact of the pandemic on the environment, referring to air pollution and lastly address climate change.
Impact of COVID-19
In China, where the coronavirus first was discovered, carbon emissions fell by around 25% within 4 weeks resulting to a drastic drop on air pollution. (Myllyvirta 2020)
Significant changes can be seen when comparing the NO2 levels of 2019 and 2020:
Obvious improvement of the environment is also shown in Venice (Italy) after only 2 weeks of lockdown in the canal. The water has become clearer due to the stoppage of motorboat traffic and less tourists. Even though the water quality itself did not improved, reduction of traffic on canals and roads benefits the air quality (Clifford 2020).
These sudden changes prove a link between economy and the planet’s health.
Estimated 4.2 million people die every year from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases linked to air pollution (WHO ©2020). Therefore, the drop of air pollution means reducing deaths. An analysis by a Stanford University scientist clarified that 77,000 lives were likely saved in China just by the amount of reducing pollution (McMahon 2020). A similar study shows that coronavirus lockdown measures have already saved 59,000 lives in Europe (Newey & Nuki 2020).
Air pollution is caused by solid and liquid particles and certain gases, that come from vehicles, power generation, building heating systems, agriculture/waste, as well as wildfires, suspended in the air. These particles, called aerosols, are mostly formed when fossil fuels like coal and petroleum, and wood are burned. The aerosols and gases do not only come directly from the sources mentioned above but also can come from chemical reactions in the air (Stoller-Conrad 2020).
Another important cause is the ground-level ozone, which can be a greenhouse gas. When sunlight reacts with certain chemicals that come from the mentioned sources, ozone is created. Combined with particles, smog forms which is not only bad for health but also makes it difficult to see (Stoller-Conrad 2020).
Air pollution do not only lead to certain health problems but also contributes to climate change and exacerbate it.
Climate change is the change of the usual weather, that happens in a place on earth. Meaning, there could be a change in rainfall or in temperature for certain months or seasons. If there is a change in Earth’s climate, its usual temperature rises or falls and the time when it rains and snows could shift. Climate change, especially warming of the earth, causes snow and ice melting as well as ocean rising and phase changing when certain plants start growing (May 2017).
The most critical impact of climate change is when the ice mass at the poles melt and sea level rises leading to flooding and even disappearing of small island states. Moreover, it causes extreme weather phenomena, drought, extinction of species and plants (Acciona Team).
Even though climate change is happening in the whole world, developing countries are mostly affected by it and do not have the possibility to overcome these crises (Government of Canada 2019). This is also the reason why not many people are aware of climate change or have the determination to prevent it. Developed countries are the ones who produces CO2 emission the most and are also the ones who are least affected by natural catastrophe but also the ones who have the financial possibility to rebuild after a crisis.
Air pollution reduced during the corona lockdown, nevertheless it will not have a long-term effect, as industries are starting their business again, as can be seen in China (He 2020). From past experiences, air pollution will rise again, and climate change might get even worse.
It can be said that economy has the most impact on the environment, especially by air pollution. Many people think climate change is just a natural change of the earth, but it is proven that everyone and everything that is happening in the environment contribute to it, so that climate change increased drastically.
After the pandemic and the critical situation, it is important to rise awareness of climate change and global warming. Everyone should understand the urgent situation and know what each individual can do to prevent air pollution. The government and industries must take actions in order to reach a successful improvement of the Earth’s health as well as the health of the humans to prevent diseases coming caused by climate change and air pollution.
Acciona Team, (year unknown). Consequences of climate change [online]. ACCIONA [Viewed 23 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.acciona.com/climate-change/
Government of Canada, (2019). Climate change in developing countries [online]. Canada [Viewed 24 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/issues_development-enjeux_developpement/environmental_protection-protection_environnement/climate-climatiques.aspx?lang=eng
Clifford, C., (2020). After first picture [online]. CNBC [Viewed 22 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/18/photos-water-in-venice-italys-canals-clear-amid-covid-19-lockdown.html
He, L., (2020). Restarting the economic engines [online]. CNN Business [Viewed 24 April 2020]. Available from: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/24/economy/china-economy-coronavirus/index.html
May, S., (2017). Is Earth’s Climate Changing? [online]. NASA [Viewed 23 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/nasa-knows/what-is-climate-change-k4.html
McMahon, J., (2020). Title [online]. Forbes [Viewed 22 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2020/03/16/coronavirus-lockdown-may-have-saved-77000-lives-in-china-just-from-pollution-reduction/#3415c6c634fe
Myllyvirta, L., (2020). Update 30 March 2020 [online]. CarbonBrief [Viewed 22 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-coronavirus-has-temporarily-reduced-chinas-co2-emissions-by-a-quarter
NASA and European Space Agency, (2020). Pollutant Drops in Wuhan – and Does not Rebound [digital image] [Viewed 22 April 2020] Available from: https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/2/21161324/coronavirus-quarantine-china-maps-air-pollution
Newey, S. and Nuki, P., (2020). After the first picture [online]. The Telegraph [Viewed 22 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/coronavirus-lockdown-measures-may-have-saved-59000-lives-europe/
Silvestri, M., (2020). [The Grand Canal] [photo/digital image] [Viewed 22 April 2020] Available from: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/18/photos-water-in-venice-italys-canals-clear-amid-covid-19-lockdown.html
Standard & Poor’s, (2014). The South and East face rising sovereign from increased warming. [Digital image] [Viewed 24 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.schroders.com/en/nordics/professional-investor/nordic-insights/expert-magazine/putting-a-price-on-climate-change/
Stoller-Conrad, J., (2020). Where do aerosols come from? [online]. NASA Climate Kids [Viewed 23 April 2020]. Available from: https://climatekids.nasa.gov/air-pollution/
WHO, (©2020). Ambient air pollution [online]. World Health Organization [Viewed 22 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_2
First things first I would like to thank you for this article you wrote, which in my opinion covers the global issue of climate change in a really concise way.
You mentioned a very fair point about the people’s level of awareness about climate change after the pandemic. This brought up two questions to my mind :
What do you think would be the best way to rise people’s awareness about this global issue? Do you think that the « Fridays for future » movement is likely to be taken seriously and to have a real impact on people’s mind?
Secondly, you mentioned that both governments and businesses should take actions to fight climate change. What do you think they should/could do? And do you think this would have a stronger power than the people’s awareness and willingness to change or not?
Thanks for your consideration and reply 😉
Wishing you the very best!
When it came from nowhere, coronavirus in the lockdowns was good for the environment (as pictures suggest). But we are humans so we have to control coronavirus and one is vaccination.
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