With the Coronavirus lockdown in full effect almost worldwide, the cities and places that are usually bustling with people and activity have come to a standstill. The impact that this had on the environment came almost immediately; animals have begun migrating back into spaces that are usually full of people, bodies of water have been more clear than they have been in decades, and air pollution and carbon emissions have decreased dramatically. In New York alone, levels of pollution have fallen by almost 50% (Henriques).
This photo from Venice, Italy shows the water pollution and disturbance in the canal water before and during Coronavirus lockdown.
And yet, the question of whether or not these environmental improvements are temporary remain. According to science and health journalist Martha Henriques, there is a historical precedent that shows that whenever emisisions have fallen in the past, often as a result of recessions, “there’s often a rocketing rebound that wipes out any short-term cut in emissions.” Historical evidence like this is forcing scientists to think that the environment will go back to the way it was before, if not worse.
Answering this question ultimately forces people to ask why emissions have dropped. Transportation, which usually makes up 23% of global carbon emissions, has fallen dramatically because less people are using their cars and public transportation that relies on gas vehicles. While some scientists think that the inability to travel now might encourage people to plan trips for later, ultimately resulting in an uptick in greenhouse gas emissions, only time can truly tell as to how this will play out. How the environment will respond to the Coronavirus ultimately depends on how long it lasts. If the current lockdowns last until the end of 2020, greenhouse gases, most responsible for global warming, could drop about 8% (Rice).
In the meantime, cities around the world are already making plans to include more eco-friendly cities and societies for life post Covid-19, whether that be in creating wider sidewalk pavements for walking, including more bike lanes, and ensuring that people who live in urban spaces will be able to socially distance for the future (Taylor). Cities are even encouraging people to bike at the current moment to avoid the close contact that often comes with walking (Walker).