The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is taking a heavy short-term toll on business and industry. In a desperate attempt to flatten the curve and lower the infection rate, governments have enforced lockdowns which has wreaked havoc on the ways that society and industry function. It is likely that the true extent of the economic impact of the lockdown will only become apparent in the next few years, but the early indications are that societies around the globe will enter deep recession featuring periods of negative growth.
The Pandemic and CO2 Emissions
Amid all the doom and gloom surrounding the economy, there may be a silver lining. Studies have shown that energy use has fallen markedly since the beginning of the pandemic. According to reports on the findings of global carbon watchdogs, 2020 could see the largest annual fall in CO2 emissions in the last since the turn of the twentieth century. This has been aided by the closure of offices, factories, non-essential retail outlets, bars and restaurants in countries around the world.
In China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, CO2 emissions have fallen by around 25% from levels recorded for the same period in 2019. This drop has been attributed to a marked reduction in the burning of coal in China’s legions of dirty coal-fired power stations. But CO2 is not the only emission that has fallen. Aerial images taken from aboard NASA satellites have shown that air pollution in some of the countries with the world’s most unhealthy air has fallen dramatically. In countries like India, residents of some northern cities have been amazed to find that spectacular views of the Himalayas have been revealed from behind a thick wall of smog.
Back to Business as Usual?
The coronavirus pandemic has shown us what is possible were we all to unite in an effort to reduce greenhouse emissions. At a time of great uncertainty regarding what will have if we continue to fail to make any inroads in tackling the specter of climate change, we can ill afford to let these remarkable gains be just a flash in the pan. When things finally return to normal, we can only hope that the gains made will be built upon instead of eroded as we look to get our economies back on track.
One city that perhaps shows that some good may come out of the pandemic is London. The mayor there has recently announced that the city would not be opening many of the streets in the central areas of the city back up to motorists. Instead, large areas of the city are to be cordoned off for pedestrians and cyclists. This will come as a welcome relief for clean air activist groups that have campaigned for years for the government to do something about high levels of air pollution in the British capital.
Let us all hope that the reductions in global emissions in the first of this year can spur humanity onto a greener future – one in which we are more in harmony with nature and able to reach our boundless potential.