COVID-19 Pandemic: A Silver Lining For The Environment?

In just a matter of a few months, the world has transformed. Hundreds and thousands of people have already died and thousands have been infected from a new coronavirus that was previously unknown before it appeared in Wuhan in December 2019.

The worldwide pandemic has had some unexpected effects on the environment, particularly climate change. But, is this just a sudden change or could it lead to a serious drop in emissions?

The new coronavirus – COVID-19 has provoked numerous changes throughout the world in these last couple of months. Entire cities are in lockdown, flights and trains have all but nearly stopped, schools and colleges have been closed, public spaces have been shut down and all events cancelled.

If there’s something great to come from the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps it is the way the Earth is getting a chance to breathe. Environmentalists and scientists have already noticed how quickly the environment is revitalizing and recovering itself from the human climate change damage. Greenhouse gases and pollution have reduced across continents as countries try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Marshall Burke – Environmental resource economist at Stanford University, did some back-of-the-envelope calculations about the recent drop in air pollution over regions in China and the number of lives saved. He wrote, “Given the huge amount of evidence that breathing dirty air contributes heavily to premature mortality, a natural – if admittedly strange – question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from COVID-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself”.

Climate Change: Coronavirus And Lockdown Cleans Out The Air

With countries trying to combat the spread of coronavirus, cities are in complete lockdown. In many countries, this lockdown has an unintended benefit – clear, blue skies. According to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the average number of good quality days had increased to 21.5% in February in comparison to the same period last year.

Professor Yang YangXu of the TAMU Department of Atmospheric Science said, “If there is a cut in people commuting to the workplace and traveling to friends and families, that’s, of course, generating positive outcomes to the air quality”. Verified by NASA satellite, this decrease of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be globally seen.

COVID-19 and Climate Change: The Unforeseen Pairing

It goes without saying that people are usually ruthless about acting against climate change – a global threat. Also, humans are somewhat bad about controlling the outbreak of a worldwide pandemic. However, an unintended benefit of the coronavirus has taken the world by storm. The virus has already had several positive effects on climate change and Earth.

In China and most parts of the world, all factories were closed and the streets were cleared to mitigate the spread of the virus. Since people stayed at home and the usual daily life came to a halt, the skies cleared.

Climate change poses a major threat to human lives and urgently needs a comprehensive response. According to a study published in the medical journal, the Lancet has predicted more than 500,000 deaths due to climate change by the year 2050.

One response to the COVID-19 outbreak that has drawn mixed reactions from climate scientists is the way many communities have taken major steps to safeguard each other from the health crisis. This speed and extent of the response brings some hope that rapid action can also be taken on climate change if the threat posed to the planet is treated urgently.


COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on lives, healthcare services, jobs as well as mental health. However, if anything, the pandemic has also shown the difference which communities can make when they seek one another and come together – that’s one invaluable lesson when dealing with climate change.

Almost everything remains uncertain about what the world will really look like once we cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the fundamental societal changes that we are witnessing might offer us the last chance to evade a climate catastrophe and save the environment.

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