The novel coronavirus, which emerged in late 2019, and spread rapidly leading to a worldwide shutdown in March of 2020, has unequivocally caused a difficult time. Firstly, there is the matter of health. The virus has killed hundreds of thousands of individuals and infected millions, leaving some with long term health issues. Next is the economic recession COVID-19 plunged the United States and many other countries into. However, some experts suggest that there just might be a silver lining.
When the virus became a pandemic and forced world activities to halt, the level of carbon emissions decreased substantially. According to NBC News, the rate of carbon emissions fell by nearly 17 percent in March. However, experts warn that though the reduction is a step in the right direction, ultimately a more concerted effort paired with structural change is necessary in order to actually foment change. In fact, the 17 percent reduction only places the world at the level it was at in 2006, which is nowhere near the necessary level needed to curb climate change.
An interesting factor to observe, however, is what happened to the coal industry. For the past 140 years and the industrial revolution coal has powered the vast majority of the world. Unfortunately, however, coal is the largest pollutant and accounts for the greatest contribution of carbon dioxide in the world. In a positive turn, however, during lockdown the demand for coal shrunk significantly. So much so that in the United Kingdom London did not burn a single lump of coal to supply energy. This was possible as demand for energy fell and the country was able to turn to its more sustainable and renewable energies to supply the population.
While the shift away from coal usage in the United Kingdom is noteworthy, it is also important to highlight the less environmentally friendly changes. As many economies tanked and found themselves in recessions, some administrations took it as an opportunity to roll back environmental protections for the sake of the economy. This has led to more environmental concerns and a raised amount of pollution.
Moreover, during the same time frame, it became apparent that climate change was wreaking havoc despite the reduction of pollution caused by COVID-19. For instance, the artic was so hot that it caught on fire and the Brazil continues to face dramatic deforestation. These factors indicate that the environment is still suffering.
Therefore, though the brief reduction in carbon emissions was a positive impact of COVID-19, it is clear that the environment is still fast deteriorating. It will take a united effort to actually create substantial changes in how climate change is treated.