Happy international Earth Day 2020 – 5 Earthly-effects due to COVID-19
Today it is International Earth Day. And it is a strange one.
Strange as billions of people across the world are now living under strict lockdown conditions, causing unprecedented reductions in human activity. Not surprisingly, this is having a big impact on our planet. The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic is having undeniable human and economic impacts.
What is the effect of COVID-19 on our planet and nature?
Hereby 5 effects on nature due to COVID-19.
1. Greenhouse gases falling
As economies have been put to a halt in the face of the pandemic, with impacts on transport, electricity demand and industrial activity, emissions of greenhouse gases are also falling in many areas.
An analysis by Lauri Myllyvirta (an expert from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air) found that the crisis temporarily reduced carbon dioxide emissions in China by 25 percent, with emission levels yet to return to normal more than two months after the country imposed its lockdown.In fact, experts at Carbon Brief have estimated that the pandemic could trigger the largest ever annual fall in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.
The publication predicts that there could be CO2 reductions of around 5.5 percent in 2020 compared to 2019 larger than those seen during any previous economic crisis or war. Meanwhile, India (which was home to several of the most polluted cities in the world before the pandemic), has also seen dramatic falls in air pollution. Some residents living in the city of Jalandhar in the northern state of Punjab have reported being able to see parts of the Himalayas from more than 100 miles away. Known as the Dhauladhar mountain range, these peaks have not been seen from this area of the country for decades.
2. Drop in air pollution
Several parts of the world are also experiencing significant drops in air pollution, corresponding to reductions in industrial activity and vehicular traffic. Data collected by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite shows that there have been dramatic falls in nitrogen dioxide concentrations above some European cities, coinciding with quarantine measures.For example, scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute saw drops in nitrogen dioxide of around 45 percent in Madrid, Milan and Rome between March 13 to April 13, 2020 compared to the same period last year. During the same time, Paris saw dramatic falls of 54 percent.
3. The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of our current dysfunctional relationship with nature.
Many people are wondering when life will get back to normal after the COVID-19 crisis. We should be asking: can we use this opportunity to learn from our mistakes and build something better?
The current economic system has put great pressure on the natural environment, and the unfolding pandemic has shone a light on the domino effect that is triggered when one element in this interconnected system is destabilised.
Natural habitats are being reduced, causing species to live in closer quarters than ever to one another and to humans. As some people opt to invade forests and wild landscapes due to business interests and others at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum are forced to search for resources for survival, we damage the ecosystems, risking that viruses from animals find new hosts – us.
Given our interconnected and ever-changing world, with air travel, wildlife marketing and a changing climate, the potential for further serious outbreaks remains significant. Pandemics are, therefore, often a hidden side effect of economic development and inequalities that can no longer be ignored. In other words, just as carbon is not the cause of climate change, it is human activity – not nature – that causes many pandemics.
4. Designing nature-positive stimulus packages could hold the key to preventing future outbreaks
This in addition to ensuring the long-term sustainability of livelihoods and business activities. One of the biggest beneficiaries of shifting towards valuing and investing in natural capital would be the rural economy, securing the future supply of sustainable food and commodities.
We are at a critical juncture in planning how to overcome this global health crisis and address economic shocks. But exactly what this will look like is yet to be determined. There can be no going back to business-as-usual.
These efforts will require strong leadership from government, business and grassroots civil society actors, and cooperation at levels unseen before this pandemic, as well as thorough and targeted financial interventions. This requires swift and effective action not only for the economy but for the long-term capacity of the planet to support healthy and productive human populations.
5. Reduction of Seismic activity
Might be one of the unusual impacts on the planet as a result of the pandemic.
Seismologists have discovered that there is less seismic noise around the world, which means there are less vibrations from trains, cars and busses throughout the world because so many people are staying home and social distancing, CNN reports.
They have noticed drops in ambient “seismic noise”—persistent vibrations in the ground that can result from human activity as well as other factors—in certain urban areas. These vibrations—which are picked up by machines know as seismometers—can be generated by vehicular traffic and industrial activities, for example.
According to Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, seismic noise resulting from human activities has fallen by about a third in the city. Scientists in California and the U.K. have also noticed similar trends.