Mere months ago, the biggest threat to the health and wellbeing of our planet present in the public sphere was climate change. Now, as COVID-19 presents the more immediate danger, climate change has been overall set aside in the media. However, as we continue to observe social distancing guidelines, travel has reduced significantly, and more people than ever are working from home, scientists have noticed a positive change in the environment. While some of these alternative social practices are unsustainable in the long run, they still can be a learning opportunity and teach us how we can progress toward a healthier planet in the years to come.
Change is possible. With a global decrease in energy consumption, there is a noticeable difference in our carbon emissions and pollution levels. In China, scientists observed a 25% decrease in CO2 levels over a four-week period. That is a significant for the largest country in the world. Italy showed a similar decrease in pollution during lockdown. This data shows that widespread action is not only possible but can be effective in reducing the negative impact of energy consumption on our environment, and with scientists claiming we have only a decade to save the planet, that news is encouraging.
What’s less encouraging is the threat of emissions rapidly rising after the COVID-19 crisis subsides to meet industrial demands, similar to the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession. Although the drop in pollution is nice, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to create a lasting positive impact. Still, it’s reassuring to know that our actions matter, and that people and businesses can rise to combat a threat to humanity—it’s a lesson we shouldn’t forget.