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COVID-19's Effect on the Environment

Before the world went into lockdown, powerful protests demanded climate action stemming from the Fridays for Future movement to raise awareness on the climate crisis. Despite concerns and consequences, individuals and companies continued to emit greenhouse gases and pollutants for the benefit of economic growth and profit over people.

As the pandemic began to spread, lockdowns were enforced across the globe. More than thousands of employees were laid off, only several airline destinations remained open, and non-essential travel was banned. As this lockdown hit, the fear of contagion hit many families, which resulted in empty streets, parks, airports, and stores. Regardless of the few that did not comply with lockdown orders, the fear of transmittance is what caused individuals to stay inside and comply with social distancing orders. This resulted in individuals seeking cleaner ways of travelling including walking and biking therefore causing carbon emissions to lower.

Because of the worldwide isolation, we are seeing a few positive environmental effects due to the global pandemic. 

Data from the Sentinel-5P satellite shows that nitrogen dioxide pollution levels have plummeted across Europe due to the pandemic, saving an estimate of 77,000 lives. NO2 is emitted mostly by burning fossil fuels at high temperatures, as in internal combustion engines. 

Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernic Atmosphere Monitoring Service tells Euronews, “In the short term I think these decreases are useful. The level of air pollution is affecting cardio-pulmonary health in general, so having less pollution at a time where this virus is around can only be a good thing.”

Due to standstill industries, industrial waste emissions have plummeted. Less vehicles were on the roads and less planes were flying due to self isolation and social distancing. But, now that we are regaining some sense of normalcy, fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions are shooting up quickly.

Yet we can take something from the few weeks of nature pouring into cities, and blue skies returning to heavily polluted areas. It's that the government has the power to make change and give youth and humans the chance to rescue the earth. There is not much time, there has only been small effects from the pandemic, but we can't stop doing our part to be sustainable and make change as future leaders.

Contributors : Michelle Xiao, Edie Whittington