Climate change is the defining crisis of our time. The Secretary General of the UN Antonio Guterres points out “the climate emergency is a race we are losing, but we can win”.  

Has the Corona Virus crisis given us this chance to win the race and beat climate change? Around the world airports, roads, factories and cities are all closing down, leading to an overall reduction in carbon emissions. In New York levels of carbon dioxide are down 5-10%. China has seen a huge reduction of Carbon emissions of around 25%. In addition, satellite images from space show that in Northern Italy, the greenhouse gas nitrogen dioxide is reducing.

Due to the lockdown that has been announced in many countries around the world, general travel and movement of people has reduced. This means, less cars on the road that produce vast amount of harmful CO2. As well as a reduction in local travel, the lockdown has meant that global aviation has been reduced. This is significant because aviation is one of the biggest carbon polluters.  In addition, the closing down of industry, which accounts for roughly one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, has led to a sizeable reduction in pollutant gases. 

Since the coronavirus lockdown, there have been notable positive impacts on the environment all around the world. Cleaner air and increased visibility are two major effects of the lockdown. For example, citizens living in Northern Japan are now able to view the Himalayan mountains for the first time in a lifetime. Also, due to the stringent lockdown in Venice, there has been a significant change in the water quality of many of its famous canals. The lack of usual boat traffic has dramatically improved the look of the canal as the sediment on the bed is no longer being churned up causing the water to look murky and muddy.

However, is this change sustainable? Hopefully when lockdown is lifted people will be more mindful of their travelling habits and how much they buy and waste.  This increased awareness should bring a slight reduction in CO2 emissions and the overall waste we produce. Also, as many workers have discovered that working from home is now feasible hopefully that will dramatically reduce travelling times.