Environmental impacts of COVID-19

Photo of a power station billowing out smoke

As SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus pathogen that causes the illness COVID-19, sweeps across the globe, social distancing measures are noticeably impacting the environment. Consequently, both the preservation and restoration of environmental quality are experiencing a new normal as the pandemic continues.

Coronavirus and climate change-related conservation

COVID-19 has heightened wildlife conservation awareness. As Scientific American has cited, wildlife trade secured additional notoriety when the CDC broke the news of a zoonotic pathogen jumping from animals to humans, causing the current pandemic. Secondly, when the American Veterinary Medical Association announced the positive presence of COVID-19 in domestic animals, zoos and BioTechniques Journal likewise saw captive animals test positive with the new coronavirus. This elevated concerns for sources such as UNESCO, ,  and  about the future safety of already threatened species, like the great apes who are similar to humans. Additionally, National Geographic raised alarms on poaching proliferation in conservation reserves as rangers and keepers self-isolated.

Should climate change run unabated, future zoonotic disease outbreaks may become the norm, asserts Conservation International and Harvard University’s School of Public Health. Given that healthy animals living in healthy ecosystems are robust enough to resist diseases, by minimizing climate change and protecting habitats, we may be able to avoid future pandemics.

Social distancing has improved air quality

The COVID-19 crisis has forced activity freezes. Lockdowns and calls to shelter-in-place have closed schools and non-essential businesses. Minimal activity from industrial sites, factories and construction sectors has minimized the risks for toxins to escape, in turn improving air quality.

Travel bans have similarly restricted international flights. Canceled conferences, festivals, concerts and other public events have diminished interest in tourism, reports the US Travel Association. Airline ridership has slumped, and airports are as near-empty as they were in the 2001 aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As such, aviation emissions — which accounted for 2.4% of global CO2 emissions in 2018, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) — have dropped significantly.

This is an excerpt from an article originally published on INHABITAT.

Travindy
Travindy
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