Coronavirus or COVID-19 call it whatever you like, both names are ugly enough to change your mood to the worst. But wait, it is not all that bad despite the tragic death toll. And regardless of the increasing numbers of infected people every day. So, what are coronavirus positive & negative impacts on the environment?
This pandemic taught the world very hard lessons. It showed everyone that the major environmental issues can be fixed in weeks, if not days. Just if the fix happens by major force against our will.
The major force called “Coronavirus pandemic” started to take momentum by the 50th anniversary of earth day. And changed everything because of the lockdown, and the low demand for stuff that causes environmental issues.
Clear sky and water are something that some generations have never seen before. And they were fortunate to experience this because of the pandemic. It is a relief for the earth, that no one imagined could happen that fast.
But it is not a road full of roses either, it is a pandemic and people are dying. And changes to people’s behaviors are also reversing the positive effects of the pandemic by time.
In this blog post, I will briefly talk about the positive and negative impacts on the environment caused by coronavirus. Now let’s start this by global warming.
One of the first impacts on the environment is global warming
Coronavirus pandemic is the biggest event that caused the biggest carbon crash in history. CO2 emissions are rising in billions of tons per year since the 1900s. And this is because of oil and other fossil fuel usage.
This crash caused by the pandemic is huge. But it doesn’t count towards the current number of emissions above 36 gigatons. And this will keep increasing global warming if we don’t reach net-zero emissions soon enough.
Analysts estimate that the decrease in emissions that cause global warming will be between 2 to 3 billion tons. And that’s due to the lockdown and other measures, which is a huge number but not enough.
The International Energy Agency estimates that around 8% of emissions equal to about 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide will not be emitted this year because of the pandemic as mentioned in this article on the Bloomberg website.
The cause of this decrease mainly because we are traveling and moving less. And because of the lockdowns almost everywhere in the world. Polluting factories closed doors overnight and billions stayed at home.
Of course, pollution didn’t cause the virus, but it strengthens its symptoms. People in highly polluted regions are more likely to die from the virus. And that’s because of the pollution that weakened their lungs.
So, we are seeing a little fix here, but didn’t the pandemic help oceans as well? In fact, it didn’t.
Oceans are getting more types of environmental pollution
I have mentioned before in the eco-friendly lifestyle guide, that the world production of plastic is around 100 million tons annually. In the U.S. only 10% of the production is recycled. And tons of plastic waste (especially one-use and disposable plastic products), are thrown in the ocean besides landfills.
Adding to that, plastic takes hundreds of years and tons of greenhouse gas emissions to break down. And a simple solution to this issue is to avoid disposable plastic products as much as possible.
But with coronavirus, this is not easy to achieve anymore. People now have to use every disposable item to drink, eat, and protect themselves. And most of those disposable items end up in the ocean eventually.
A few months ago, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and cups were covering marine life. Now we added this to the pollution. We added masks and gloves that we use to protect ourselves and prevent the virus spread.
Some concerned environmental groups hope that people start using reusable masks, and replace latex gloves with more frequent handwashing. But people are afraid, they will still use latex gloves along with handwashing as long as the numbers are increasing, and no cure or vaccines have been discovered yet.
It is a new form of pollution as single-use PPE are covering the ocean as per the World Economic Forum. And a study was estimating that in the UK alone that single-use face masks can create 66,000 tons of waste that is so risky to health as well. And this is in addition to 57,000 tons of plastic packs.
So ocean and marine life are struggling even more because of more types of waste. But this time it is a contaminated waste.
Speaking of waste. People now need food. And food banks are trying to adapt to the increasing lines in front of them. Why should we have an issue with food waste?
Food Waste issue is increasing despite the higher demand
People will never stop eating. And during coronavirus pandemic food became more of a necessity than a luxury. Schools, restaurants, and different food service outlets were the strong link between most of the farmers and Americans in general.
With the pandemic and the shutdown of schools and restaurants, farmers were unable to quickly adapt to new manufacturing and packaging requirements. As well as distribution channels. The whole supply chain is configured and specialized in serving its big customers. And not the end consumer. The normal customer changed from restaurants and schools that order large piles of crops and have longstanding contracts, to grocery outlets and food banks.
It is very expensive to change the supply chain to adapt to an incident that might go away soon. However, this means now that fresh produce is being wasted in the fields which is heartbreaking. It is estimated that farmers are dumping 3.7 million gallons of milk on a daily basis, as per Dairy Farmers of America.
Lines at the food banks keep growing while farmers keep smashing eggs and dumping milk that they can’t sell. Families are running low on food, while farmers are throwing it by huge amounts. So a group of university students started Farmlink to connect farmers with food banks.
And this effort saved a lot of fresh food including but not limited to 50,000 onions and 10,000 eggs from being destroyed as per New York Times. They did this effort by cold calling farmers with excess food and trying to help them distribute it.
So, what to do after knowing the impacts on the environment by coronavirus?
Now, after knowing that this pandemic has its positive and negative effects on the environment, what should you do?
As you understand that, unfortunately, with the re-opening of economies, everything will reverse. Because most countries are not ready to come back with green direction and totally rely on renewable energy sources.
This means that global warming will continue to rise if we don’t start adopting the eco-friendly lifestyle ourselves. At home, at work, and everywhere. If everyone on earth becomes eco-conscious, all governments, companies, factories, and other causes of pollution will have to adapt to people’s demands. And this will be in a positive way, and not through a deadly pandemic.
We need to rely on renewable energy sources. Shift our direction towards eco-friendly products, and still avoid plastic at all costs. If we have to rely temporarily on disposable items to eat, for example, we can still rely on eco-friendly compostable and biodegradable products.
For PPE tools, we need to safely dispose of face masks and gloves in the bags specialized for this purpose. And avoid throwing them in the streets or uncovered in trash cans. This should help to protect others and to decrease “a little bit” the pollution in our oceans.
And of course, we can participate in helping farmers reach new customers by creating useful links similar to Farmlink. Because they can’t solve the issue alone.
I hope you found this blog post valuable, and I appreciate your thoughts in the comments below.