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21 Sep

How COVID-19 is Affecting Climate Change


One of the bright spots in the otherwise dispiriting realities brought on by COVID-19 is the drop in worldwide air pollution, which is good news for the fight against climate change. However, this pollution drop is only temporary while different coronavirus hotspots shut down to decrease the spread of the virus. Scientists are scrambling to determine what COVID-19 could mean for the earth’s future.

As governments tackle the coronavirus crisis, climate change commitments are falling by the wayside.

  • - Poland considers pausing their carbon trading program.
  • - Czech Republic wants the EU’s landmark climate bill to be abandoned.
  • - China has extended deadlines for environmental standards.
  • - The USA announced a rollback on car emission rules.
  • - Brazil is cutting back on enforcing the protection of the Amazon from deforestation.

While city shutdowns in response to the coronavirus were having a positive impact on the air pollution, the corresponding leniency within governmental agencies on their climate change initiatives is disheartening and concerning.

Some see the new normal following the pandemic as an opportunity. The new normal could include green initiatives, eco-friendly urban infrastructure, and cleaner energy alternatives: solar and wind.

“While our immediate focus is on combating COVID-19, our work on delivering the European Green Deal continues. The climate crisis is still a reality and necessitates our continued attention and efforts.” An EU spokesperson replied to a European leader’s call to abandon climate measures.

Will the Environment and Climate Change Become COVID-19 Collateral?

COVID-19 has done a number to the world’s health, economies, and so much more. As governments grapple with the fallout of this virus, some are deeply concerned about how this will influence the slow fight for cleaner strategies to care for our planet’s ecosystem.

Huge decreases in transportation and industrial activity throughout the world in response to COVID-19 saw a drop of 17 percent in global carbon emissions in April. And yet, not even a month later, CO2 levels were reported to have reached their highest monthly average with 417.1 parts per million.

Carbon dioxide often remains in the atmosphere for years—sometimes a hundred years or tens of thousands of years.

COVID-19 Delays in Climate Change Initiatives

Originally slated as a “pivotal year” for addressing climate change, 2020’s focus was usurped by the coronavirus. The goal had been that in November 2020, 196 countries would introduce new plans for meeting the emission reduction goals established under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The summit has been postponed…and with that, many governments are enacting stimulus plans that don’t incorporate climate change strategies.

International Negotiations

Originally, the 2020 UN Ocean Conference was scheduled for June, but the pandemic has postponed this important conversation without a new date. Meanwhile, the World Conservation Congress has delayed their meeting until January 2021. The High Seas Treaty has taken years to negotiate, and the meeting to finalize it has been pushed until 2021.

Funds Moving Away from Climate Change

In response to COVID-19, many governments have been looking to siphon funds from other areas in their budget to help cushion the economic toll on cities and states. As the economy stutters, climate change advocates worry after the plans for green infrastructure that may be paused and never restarted. Since March, the US has seen a loss of 600,000 jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green vehicles, and energy storage.

Other topics that can affect climate change negatively

  • - Scientific research has faced new barriers with scientists unable to travel for fieldwork.
  • - More plastic is being used again as we try to create sterile environments to stop the spread of this virus.
  • - While public transportation was often encouraged to decrease air pollution and emissions, private vehicles are being encouraged to minimize virus spread.

But the news isn’t all bad! While there are plenty of areas for us to continue to grow and develop, COVID-19 has brought some odd positives to the conversation surrounding climate, the environment, and eco-friendly activities.

Many countries are seeing this pandemic as an opportunity to make changes to their current systems of renewable energy, electric car use, and emission-friendly projects.

  • - Germany is devoting one-third of its $145 billion stimulus plan to electric vehicles and renewable energy.
  • - France has invested $8.8 billion into its car industry, gearing to become the main producer of electric vehicles in Europe.
  • - South Korea introduced a Green New Deal with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Meanwhile, as many people try to avoid public transportation, they have turned to other options such as biking or walking. Cities have closed off streets for pedestrians and increased bike lanes. Moreover, COVID-19 has prompted a drop in international travel, and with many businesses turning to remote work, less and less workers commute farther than a few steps from their bedroom to office.

So many people are at home, and they are becoming more aware of issues that they haven’t had time to consider in the past. People are paying attention to scientists in a way they haven’t in a long time. While COVID-19 offers mixed results for climate change, this could be a turning point for our environment and economy.

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