With the development of the COVID-19 situation in various countries, some successive measures were put in place to deal with it. For example, many states in North America and Europe have been insisting on practicing ‘social distancing’ policies. A third of the world’s population is in lockdown. Schools are suspended, online classes, cancellation of various activities and working from home. This means that millions of people are no longer driving to and from work during peak hours. Also, many factories are closed, flights are cancelled, and cars are parked in garages, leading to a reduction in pollution.
Researchers in New York in their preliminary research showed that compared to last year, carbon monoxide emissions, mainly from cars, was reduced by nearly 50%. The carbon dioxide emissions that caused the global temperatures to rise also fell sharply.
In fact, transportation contributes around 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
We are also able to witness some rare views in the city due to the reduction of human activities during the quarantine. For example, the water quality of the Venice Canal has significantly improved because of the reduced sewage discharge and pollution caused by the hotels and transportation on the canal. The water quality has become much better. Not only can we see the moss under the clear water but also fish and swan, which was almost an impossible view in the past. In another city Toronto, foxes that usually live in forested areas were being spotted in downtown due to the lockdown and reduced human activities. Quarantine has given us an opportunity to have a glimpse of the beauty of nature.
The changes in our environment can even be seen from space. The large amount of exhaust gas generated during the development of various industries, such as manufacturing, mining, transportation and construction have caused the accumulation of smog over China, India and other countries over the decades. However, since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which monitors the Earth with satellites, said, “A sight never seen before.” We can see pictures from the internet proving air pollutants dropped significantly in these countries.
This is a situation that our generation has never encountered before. The reduction of economic activity has led to the most significant reduction of greenhouse gases in 50 years. The emission of nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide has significantly reduced. In fact, nitrogen dioxide is a pollutant, mainly produced by the burning of cars, power plants and other industrial sources, which increases the risk of asthma, lung cancer and other harmful health conditions. With the closure of the city, the number of cars on the streets has fallen sharply, reducing the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the air. According to the World Health Organization, there are around 7 million people who die from air pollution every year. For example, 48,000 people in France and more than 1 million people in China die from air pollution every year. According to estimates by other scientists, the annual death toll due to air pollution in the United States exceeds 100,000,
Although the media is speculating about the possible positive impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and other climate problems, the reduction of pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions are only temporary. After the epidemic, how governments decide to re-stimulate the economy will have a major impact on the scale of carbon emissions and air pollution. Air pollution might go back to the original level or maybe even higher.
Through this crisis, we know that quarantine is not a practical way to reduce carbon emissions. However, this pandemic has made it clear how humans are responsible for polluting the environment and a complete closure and lockdown can help in healing nature. It would be great to have a two week-long annual lockdown around the globe to help Earth heal and bring the level of pollution down. It can also act as a reminder to the public of how irresponsible acts impact the environment negatively, and the power that we all have in order to transform our planet into a better one.
Give it a thought: A two week long break all around the globe annually can help heal the planet – the air will be fresh, the water cleaner, the animals and birds will get more chances of getting out and be free. We will have more time with the family and more time to spend on cleansing our body and soul. Let’s give our mother nature a break every year, probably around the same time when schools are off and add it to the calendars globally as ‘Earth on Break’!
By Angie Ng