The COVID-19 lockdown has affected the environment in a number of ways.The first is a reduction in air travel and associated emissions. Globally, air travel accounts for around 12% of the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and this was predicted to rise. An ongoing reduction in air travel would lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions.The lockdown has also meant less travel by road, which has resulted in measurably lower vehicle emissions and cleaner air in New Zealand.The coronavirus pandemic has caused detrimental outcomes for education, people, society, and the economy. Yet, if there’s one silver lining from the messiness of it all, it’s the lessons we can learn and apply to climate change. While coronavirus has not and cannot completely solve the issues of climate change, it has been able to provide insight into how the world can approach the global crisis of climate change.
On the surface, it seems like the pandemic that has kept people indoors for months and shut down businesses will help benefit the climate change crisis. However, law professor and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Michael Gerrard brings up a good point. He shares that COVID-19 has caused oil prices to plunge, which will have a negative side effect on choosing renewable energy sources instead. When oil prices are so cheap, “it’s more difficult for renewables to compete”.
On the bright side, the decreased travel has not only reduced the air pollution levels in cities around the world, but it’s also given the space and freedom for animals to roam freely in their natural environments. The pandemic is also teaching people about the importance of face-to-face interaction and travel.In fact, transportation is the biggest creator of greenhouse gas emissions. Through this period, people have started to realize when it is and when it is not important to be communicating in person. This could change transportation needs for the long-term and mean that virtual meetings and communication could replace unnecessary travel in the future. This would have a very positive effect on climate change.
These days, more than ever, people are thinking of the environment, and its past and future more seriously. The warnings of climate change and global warning have only intensified over the past decade. The improved air quality due to the lockdown has added to the realisation that major changes are needed.
Environment experts have mixed views on this development and on the current effects of the lockdown. Historian and author with a special interest in environmental history Mahesh Rangarajan says, “The lockdown means different things to us as we relate to the environment in contrasting ways. For the middle classes, we appreciate nature better watching birds from a window. For those who work on the land and waterscapes, it has been a difficult time as work simply dries up.”