Was the Environment Healing During the Pandemic?

While the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic prompted lockdowns in many countries all over the world, the resultant decrease in emissions may have improved the health of our planet. Incidents where endangered animals have been spotted in certain areas were all around social media.

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The worldwide disruption caused by this has resulted in great impacts on the environment and the climate. Also, the considerable decline in travel has caused many regions to experience a large drop in air pollution. Carbon emission rates have reduced across countries significantly. There have been many instances where considerable changes in environmental conditions were observed. In China, lockdowns and similar measures have resulted in a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions and 50 per cent reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions. One scientist estimated that this may have saved at least 77,000 lives over the course of two months. When compared with indexes of last year, pollution levels in New York have decreased almost by 50% this year. Satellite images have shown that Nitrogen dioxide emissions have started to decrease in Northern Italy, Spain and United Kingdom.

As most people had to stay at home due to lockdown and travel restrictions, many animals have been spotted in several cities. Sea turtles were spotted laying eggs on beaches they once avoided. This was found in coasts of the Bay of Bengal due to the lowered levels of pollution and human intervention. In the United States, dangerous vehicle collisions with animals such as deer, elk, moose, bears, mountain lions were very common. These incidents have reduced greatly and the rates fell by 58% during March and April. Endangered animals were visible in urban cities. A group of Nilgai deers were spotted on the roads of Noida near New Delhi. Dolphins which were seen in the Ganges many years ago, were also spotted in the river during the lockdowns. Several migratory birds were spotted across cities.

Gabon, an African country, had decided to ban the human consumption of certain animals like, bats and pangolins. This was done to reduce the spread of zoonotic diseases because the novel coronavirus is thought to have transmitted to humans through these animals.

According to a study published in May 2020, it was found that the rate of daily global carbon emissions during the lockdown in early April fell by 17%. This could possibly lead to an annual carbon emissions decline of up to 7%, which would be the biggest drop in emissions since World War II according to the study. Researchers suggest that these decreases are mainly due to the reduction of transportation usage and industrial activities. It is true that rebounding and returning to our previous routine and lives could diminish these reductions due to the more limited industrial activities. Due to the reduction in flights, air pollution levels have also dropped significantly.

Temporary changes have affected the environmental conditions. However, whether this pandemic will have a lasting impact on the environment is yet to be known. None of us would have wanted to lower emissions in this way, but it has shown us what we can do together in times of need. Covid-19 has shown us the importance of lives, health services, jobs and mental health. It has also shown us the difference that people and communities can make when they work together – this has given us hope that we can show the same zeal while dealing with climate change and saving our planet.