Cleaner skies and rediscovered species are some of the silver linings of coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has allowed us to see a glimpse of the cleaner, healthier environment that is possible if the world shifts away from polluting fossil fuel industries. And while we as people on the planet are suffering, there has undeniably been environmental positives to come out from these trying and uncertain times.
For World Environmental Day on June 5 – the annual calling for awareness and action for the protection of our environment and the planet – we have compiled a selection of positive statistics to come out of the pandemic. But make no mistake, as lockdowns are starting to ease, governments and organisations across the globe must turn their attention to the recovery process and the opportunity it provides to rebuild in a different way. One that makes the world better for everyone going forwards, and not regressing to old, harmful habits.
1. European cities on the planet have seen a large drop in air pollution during the virus outbreak, which is very good news, as air pollution has been linked to heart and lung damage and many other conditions including diabetes and damaged intelligence. Data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams), which tracks pollution in 50 European cities, shows that 42 of cities recorded below-average levels of NO2 in March. London and Paris had 30 per cent reductions in NO2, a pollutant that is mostly produced by diesel vehicles.
2. The capital has experienced an almost 60 per cent reduction in air pollution since the start of the coronavirus lockdown. Scientists tracked levels of methane and carbon dioxide and saw a 58 per cent drop in emissions compared to historical levels. The 58 per cent drop in carbon dioxide emissions closely mirrors the daily reduction of 60 per cent in traffic flow in central London which Transport for London recorded during the first five weeks of the UK’s lockdown.
3. In India, A study by Carbon Brief found that carbon dioxide emissions fell by 15 per cent in March – tipping India’s 37-year emissions growth trend into reverse. Wow. And while the country’s lockdown has had an effect, according to the study, demand for fossil fuels was weakening before the pandemic due to falling electricity use and competition from renewables.
4. In April, environmentalists in Thailand found the largest number of nests of leatherback sea turtles in two decades. The rare nests were found on beaches left empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. Leatherbacks are the world’s largest sea turtles and they are listed as a vulnerable species globally.They lay their eggs in dark and quiet areas, which is difficult on crowded tourist beaches.
5. Also in April, we could see the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas from Punjab – after pollution levels dropped due to life under lockdown. Locals said it was the first time in 30 years that the mountain peaks have been visible nearly 125 miles away. Amazing.
6. At the beginning of this month, marine conservations redisovered an endagered species of seahorse in Dorset, they said they believed the coronavirus lockdown has helped the seahorse because they weren’t distrubed by traffic or tourists in the sea.
7. In Milan, air pollution has halved and the Alps — previously obscured by dense smog — can now be viewed from above the city again. ‘We had a very polluted and noisy city [prior to lockdown],’ says Anna Gerometta, president of Cittadini per l’Aria (Citizens for Air). ‘[We] have had cleaner air in the past couple of months; children who have grown up here had never experienced this air quality [before].’
8. The wild bee is seeing a revival. Bee populations on the planet are rapidly declining around the world due to habitat loss, pollution and the use of pesticides. These honey-making wonders are feeling good again. Why? Less fumes from cars on the road makes it easier for bees to forage. Also, less cars on the road means less physical bee deaths.