Emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants have decreased due to the long-term lockdown and reduced economic activity. Improved air rate has been hailed as a crucial side benefit of the crisis in many locations.
Is reducing pollution the silver lining of the Covid epidemic when economic activity picks up again?
No, and there exist at least three explanations for that.
First, lowering environmental pressures was extremely expensive. The unexpected closure of entire industries and a drop in economic activity had nothing to do with advancements in the way we produce or consume. When economic growth resumes, who doesn’t want to see the global economy add employment again? – emission levels will rise in tandem.
Second, despite lower environmental demands in 2020, the quality of the environment did not improve significantly. Concentrations of greenhouse gases did not decrease, and engagements, not emissions, determined climate change. Similarly, reducing air pollution-related illnesses and premature deaths was short-lived once activities were restarted.
The usage of raw materials fell, partly due to the postponement or cancellation of development projects; continuing construction operations is viewed as a vital driver for resuming economic growth. Changes in land use were observed.
Land-use change was barely altered, meaning ecosystem pressure and biodiversity loss will continue.
Third, while the pandemic is likely to have long-term consequences on environmental pressures, these effects will fade with time. Furthermore, growth rates in emissions, material usage, and land-use change are expected to recover in the coming years fully.
Since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, space and ground-based studies have revealed considerable reductions in various air pollutants in the Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists wanted to discover how much of the decline can be attributable to changes in human activity during pandemic-related shutdowns versus how much would have happened if 2020 had been free of pandemics.
NASA researchers discovered that pandemic limits had reduced world nitrogen dioxide concentrations by roughly 20% since February, using computer models to build a COVID-free 2020 for comparison. The findings will be presented at the International Conference on High-Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis in 2020.
We can make a silver lining out of this.
Of course, the future is unpredictable, and the connection between economic activity and environmental damage may lessen with time. However, forecasts using a large-scale model reveal that, with present policy, greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, material use, and land-use change levels could be a few percent lower by 2030 or 2040 than they would maintain without the COVID-19 epidemic.
This is a fraction of a silver lining, but consider that these long-term reductions result from decreased economic activity, not of cleaner and more resource-efficient production and consumption practices.
The main question is whether these forecasts can be avoided, and the answer is yes. Many governments are considering stimulus packages to help the economy get back on track. These are critical for economic growth and the restoration of many of the jobs that have been lost in such a short period. However, “rebuilding better” involves using this opportunity to do more than restore the previous economy. It entails investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy, a more resource-efficient and circular economy, minimizing early deaths due to air pollution, and safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem services. The Covid-19 policy responses from the: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development highlight options for governments to guarantee that decreasing pollution levels do constitute a silver lining.
Video Courtesy: CRUX