Ellie Chivers examines the double-edged sword nature of Covid-19 and its potential effects on the environment and humanity.
Photo by CDC
Coronavirus: The deadly and inescapable ‘C’ word attracting the undivided attention of reporters and the public alike. This week, the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic, triggering governments to take further action worldwide.
The proven deadly disease, particularly for our elderly and those with underlying health problems has shut down schools, universities, and has a tight grip on several countries with many of their core industries affected.
The UK is currently in the midst of the steady increase in cases of the disease, with 798 now recorded, and 10 deaths so far. It is hard to view the virus in any kind of ‘glass half full’ light, but an interesting, and perhaps unprecedented, result of the Coronavirus is that it has caused China’s carbon dioxide emissions to drop a significant 25 per cent with not too dissimilar ripples in Italy.
China and Italy
China is one of the world’s largest industrial powerhouses, but the closing of factories and refineries, as well as a drop of around 13,000 flights in to and out of the country daily, has caused their emissions to plummet.
After Chinese New Year celebrations, it is normal to see a drop in coal consumption across the country as employees enjoy the week-long celebration, but the virus has halted the usual bounce-back.
While it is unlikely these low emissions will continue after the virus is contained, these findings, first exposed by Lauri Myllyvitra, are something quite colossal.
China’s CO2 output decline to 150 million metric tonnes is equivalent to the amount New York emits in one year.
An article published to Forbes in 2018 revealed that China produced more CO2 emissions than the United States and the EU combined. This fact makes it undeniable that China needs to drastically reduce its emissions in order to truly help remedy the climate crisis, and the impacts of this pandemic might be the wake-up call the country’s government needs.
Additionally, the European Space Agency’s satellite monitoring system has reported that Italy, which is the country within Europe to be so far the most severely affected by the coronavirus with the whole country currently on lockdown, has also had a significant reduction in its air pollution emissions.
Will this really have an impact?
The drop in emissions is huge for China, but has come at an unfortunate cost. As cases of Coronavirus hopefully ease up in the future, it is likely China will ramp up factory production to make up for lost time, so whether the effects of this emission dip will be felt for much longer is difficult to comprehend.
Additionally, it’s predicted that even though reduced air travel and factory production reduces industrial emissions, this could be offset by domestic emissions as more and more people are told to stay home from work or decide to self-isolate.
Environmentally, Covid-19 is helping in the fight against climate change however, from a health perspective, it is and will remain to be real danger for those most vulnerable within society.
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