Impacts of COVID-19 on nature

Impacts of COVID-19 on nature

Published on May 22, 2020 by Fabienne Muff

Mount Everest was seen from Kathmandu

The coronavirus pandemic is causing devastation on society and the human economy, but what about the natural world?

While people have been forced to stay indoors across the world, some wildlife was given some respite and a chance to re-emerge. Human territories are reclaimed worldwide in the absence of people and vehicles on roads, in the air and on the sea. 1

Not only wildlife was benefiting – due to plummeting emissions the air is cleaner than ever. For the first time in years, Mount Everest was visible from Kathmandu, Nepal. Normally the air over the city is so polluted that the 200 km away mountain is not visible. This is mainly due to vehicular emissions, which contribute 70% of particulates in the air. Now due to COVID-19 lockdown, transport dropped so significantly that the air quality increased like not seen in years. 2

Global daily CO₂ emissions declined 17% between January and early April which lead to better air quality but also helps us fight the climate crisis. This could lead to the lowest level of carbon emissions since World War 2! 3 This is all thanks to humans changing their behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately, the drop in global emissions is still not big enough to bring the 1.5°C temperature limit within reach. Atmospheric carbon levels are still expected to rise and only when carbon neutrality is reached, will they stabilise.4

A negative impact of COVID-19 on the environment is that the addressing of climate change might lose focus, as people are understandably and necessarily preoccupied with this contemporary crisis. 5

Also, the positive effects of wildlife getting a break and dropping pollution, are only short-term. Next, I will write a blog article about what you can do to keep up the positive sides of lockdown.

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