HOW IS CORONAVIRUS IMPACTING THE ENVIRONMENT?

4/18/20

In these bleak times, it can be hard to find some hope. Coronavirus is impacting the environment in both negative and positive ways, the latter of which some people are using as a candle in the dark. But we can’t trust coronavirus to solve climate change, because it’s not going to. Coronavirus prooves that the government can act quickly in an emergency, and climate change is a slower, but still real, emergency.

CORONAVIRUS AND ENDANGERED ANIMALS

Image by Dušan Smetana
Image by Logan Scott
Image by Joshua J. Cotten

Coronavirus is affecting some endangered animals badly. For example, apes. It has been proven in the past that apes are more sensitive to human respiratory infections, even ones so common as a cold. The common cold and the flu can be very dangerous to apes and can even be fatal. Gorillas are especially susceptible to these diseases. Because of how colds and other respiratory illnesses affect apes, it is highly likely that they will be just as susceptive, perhaps more susceptive, than humans. This issue is being approached with lots of caution, because mountain gorillas, and many other apes, are extremely endangered. Rwanda and Uganda are closing zoos and protected animals to help keep gorillas and other apes safe.

CORONAVIRUS AND AIR POLLUTION

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Image by JuniperPhoton

Coronavirus is positively effecting air pollution...but not to the extent that it will solve climate change. In space, there are several orbital instruments that were measuring nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution. NO2 is released by machines that burn fossil fuels. It is noxious. There has been a decrease in NO2 concentration around China. This is probably because of the strict restrictions and economic slowdown put in place because of the pandemic. Though pollution levels usually start to drop around the Lunar New Year, this time they dropped far more and didn’t come back up. This directly correlates with the coronavirus. Carbon dioxide levels are also linked to activity in factories and industrial companies, so as those get shut down, Carbon dioxide levels sink. With people staying at home, they often don’t participate in as many activites that produce greenhouse gases. New York, San Francisco, and the Seattle area saw drops in fine particulate matter, small particles in the air that are dangerous to lungs. This is a small gain in an otherwise bleak looking situation, but we can’t expect coronavirus to just solve all environmental problems.

CORONAVIRUS AND WATER QUALITY

Image by Karsten Würth
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Coronavirus is making waters clearer, but this is likely not a sign of cleaner waters. In Venice, the usually cloudy and muddy-looking waters are clearing up. Because the tourism industry is closing down, the boats have stopped paddling through the water. Fish, swans, and even dolphins have been seen swimming around the canals and port. However, this probably doesn’t mean cleaner waters, just that the boats that usually roam Venice’s canals have stopped stirring up sediment. However, the air quality in Venice has improved and the water is getting a little cleaner because carbon dioxide is unable to synthesize in the colder water. 

CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Image by Mika Baumeister
Image by The Climate Reality Project

The pandemic is giving us a clear opportunity to work on climate change. Maybe seeing how pollution has been affected by the companies slowing down and people staying home, companies might realize that changing their ways can make a difference. Coronavirus won’t permanently halt global warming, but it can show us that we can try to. 4.6 million people die from respiratory diseases linked to air pollution a year, which shows that climate change is also hurting humans, like the coronavirus, so people should react to stop it, like they did with the coronavirus. Coming out of this pandemic might be the perfect time to start implementing more green laws because we can’t just go back to how it is. 

Image by Luke Stackpoole

STAY HOME
IF POSSIBLE

WASH 
HANDS

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WHY CORONA WON'T SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

Image by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlba

STAY SAFE EVERYONE!

sources cited

Lewis, Sophie. "Coronavirus Poses Potentially Lethal to Endangered Great Apes, Experts Warn." CBS News, 26 Mar. 2020, www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-threat-endangered-species-great-apes/. Accessed 18 Apr. 2020.

Jacobo, Julia. "Venice Canals Are Clear Enough to See Fish as Coronavirus Halts tourism in the City." ABC News, Mar. 2020, abcnews.go.com/International/venice-canals-clear-fish-coronavirus-halts-tourism-city/story?id=69662690. Accessed 18 Apr. 2020. 

Letzter, Rafi. "Dramatic Affect of Coronavirus Lockdowns Seen from Space." Live Science, 3 Mar. 2020, www.livescience.com/coronavirus-changes-pollution-over-china.html. Accessed 18 Apr. 2020. 

Chow, Denise. "Coronavirus Shutdowns Have Unintended Climate Benefits: Cleaner Air, Cleaner Water." NBC News, 18 Mar. 2020, www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/coronavirus-shutdowns-have-unintended-climate-benefits-n1161921Accessed 18 Apr. 2020.

Why Coronavirus Won't Save the Environment. Produced by Fatima Gonzalez-Torres. adapted by Pako Quijada and Forat Elalfy, Ecosia, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XhzBSMBpuY