Eco Tip: The Upside of Coronavirus — Less Pollution in the Atmosphere

Marsha Low, Weavers Way Environment Committee

“Always look for the silver lining,” goes the old standard, “and try to find the sunny side of life.” It’s always good advice, but particularly so in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

One big silver lining of the pandemic is environmental. Since the outbreak, there have been large reductions in air pollution and carbon emissions. The lockdown in China, for example, wiped out 25% of China’s carbon emissions in its first month, the equivalent of 200 megatons of CO2, by reducing coal consumption, oil refining, airline traffic and other sources. Satellite images of cities in China before and after the outbreak have shown a marked reduction in air pollution, and other images from pollution-monitoring satellites show that there has been a huge decrease in nitrogen dioxide, a poisonous gas emitted by burning fossil fuels in power plants and car engines, over the outbreak area. 

Already, a study has concluded that as many as 77,000 lives have been saved in China by the lessening of air pollution during the lockdown. And that’s just in China. Also, with thousands of flights canceled worldwide, the amount of carbon being dumped into the atmosphere by air travel has been reduced. Add to that the countless car trips not being taken by people sheltering in place. 

This is not to downplay the terrible suffering wrought by COVID-19. Rather, by hitting the pause button on our normal way of life, we see the environmental benefits that may indicate to us a way forward in how to reorganize our lives. (For example, more virtual meetings!) By doing so, we can lessen our impact upon the earth — its systems, wildlife and ourselves. Stay safe and well, everyone!