Environmental Impacts Of COVID-19

Whilst the current pandemic is sending countries into lockdown and forcing masses to work remotely – there are some positives that we can take out of this crisis. Our environmental consultants believe the indirect impact that COVID-19 is having on the environment is quite substantial. Let’s take a look at the specifics of this impact.

Countries grinding to a halt

Over the last few months, countries all around the world have seized all major works. They’ve quarantined people to their homes – meaning fewer people are commuting and driving around. Factories have stopped production so there is less pollution billowing from them. The demands are shifting, with more of a strain on online activities and food/items being delivered to doorsteps.

With a fraction of the number of people outside going about their normal days, the skies have started to clear, and the air has become cleaner as the pollution that is pumped into the world daily has taken a hiatus – allowing nature to revitalise itself. In New York alone, the carbon monoxide levels caused by automotive vehicles has been cut in half compared to this time last year. CO2 levels have also seen a 5-10% drop.

But it hasn’t stopped there – images taken from the Copernicus Satelite-5P show the rapid decline of air pollution, and particularly nitrogen dioxide, in Italy. These images coincide with the implementation of the country’s lockdown. Even Spain – the second most affected country – is experiencing drastic changes with the city of Madrid’s nitrogen dioxide levels falling by 75% within a week (as recorded on the 17th of March).

The massive drop in airline travel across the globe is also a big contributor to emissions. In 2019 alone, aeroplane flights were responsible for 915 million tonnes of CO2 around the globe. A new report has stated that if things continue the way they are for at least nine months – Australia could see a 56% cut in emissions due to the lack of air travel.

This drone shot shows clear skies and empty streets in LA.

Ground zero

In China – the epicentre of COVID-19 and a country that is usually enveloped with hazardous air pollution – the tides were turning. With factories having been shuttered for weeks, and citizens being confined to their homes the figures speak for themselves. CO2 emissions fell by 25% in the four weeks following Chinese New Year compared to past years.

That is, whilst factories usually close around this time for the celebrations – such a drop is still quite significant due to the current pandemic. Over the last few weeks, the emissions have shown to be 18% lower than usual on average – saving around 250MtCO2 (metric tonnes). The equivalent of a single metric tonne of CO2 would be driving 6000km in a diesel car.

Coal consumption also fell to a “four-year low” as the six largest power plants in the country saw a 40% reduction since last quarter. There is usually a 50% average drop in coal consumption for Chinese New Year for the ten days following the celebration but this year the drop was maintained for a longer period.

Will this last?

Unfortunately, our environmental consultants don’t believe such numbers can be sustained for very long. As soon as the quarantines begin to lift and people return to work, then CO2 emissions will start to pick up again. It is up to the general public and world leaders to recognise the statistics and see what is possible if we set our mind to it. There are alternatives to achieve similar results – such as sustainable energy and eco-friendly modes of transportation – without everyone staying indoors.

Now that China has started to lift bans and get back to normal the CO2 and coal-related achievements have been undone – with coal consumption and nitrogen dioxide levels reaching same levels as previous years. The quarterly fall in CO2 that occurred in China would only equate to approximately 1% when looking at annual figures – which really isn’t that much when you think about it.

Are you looking for environmental consultants?

Whilst a lot of businesses have gone remote there is still a chunk of essential services that continue to operate as usual – and Alpha Environmental is one of those services. Whether you’re looking to start building on newly acquired land and need it assessed or require some asbestos cleared from a building or site, our professional and qualified environmental consultants can help deliver quality solutions to your environmental problems.

If you’re looking for environmental consultants, then please contact us by filling out the enquiry form on our website or calling 1300 039 181.