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Enviroment’s benefit during lockdown

Public health restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have resulted in a sharp dip in air pollution across China, Europe and the US, with carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels heading for a record 5% annual drop.

The waters of Venice are now clear, lions lounge on roads normally frequented by safari-goers in South Africa and bears and coyotes wander around empty accommodation in Yosemite national park in California. Some Indian people were seeing the Himalayas for the first time due to the veil of air pollution lifting

Meanwhile, nearly eight in 10 flights globally have been canceled. The oil industry, a key driver of the climate crisis and direct environmental disaster, is in turmoil.

These would perhaps be the sort of outcomes seen had stringent environmental policies been put in place in the wake of the first Earth Day in 1970, which saw 20 million Americans rally in support of anti-pollution measures.

Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernic Atmosphere Monitoring Service told Euronews that the importance of the drop should not be overstated. ”I don’t think we can say that there is any long term significance in this decrease. However, in the short term I think these decreases are useful. The level of air pollution is affecting cardio-pulmonary health in general, so having less pollution at a time where this virus is around can only be a good thing,” he said.

There could also be another potential benefit of today’s lower air pollution; there’s a chance that Covid-19 may be transported and remain viable on particles of pollution. As yet there is no scientific consensus on this issue, but Alessandro Miani, President of the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine, certainly thinks it’s a viable theory:

“Particulate matter, when it’s at a certain density and there is a lot of smog, a lot of atmospheric pollution, can be considered a sort of highway for the acceleration of the epidemic,” Miani told Euronews via videoconference.

Gina McCarthy, now head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that “You wonder if people will want to go back to what it was like before. The pandemic has shown people will change their behavior if it’s for the health of their families. This has been the lost message on climate, that it’s a human problem, not a planetary problem. We have to show you can have a stable environment and your job, too” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/22/environment-pandemic-side-effects-earth-day-coronavirus).

Do we take the opportunity to create jobs in renewable energy and in making coastlines more resilient to climate change?

How people react to the return of normalcy after the pandemic will help define the crises racking the environment. Every country of the world should have the inclination to do this.The Covid-19 pandemic has had an immediate impact on our home and work environments, and also the current situation may have a big influence on our approach to pollution. The lessons learned once we will have this crisis behind us will be very important to (rethink) the problem of air pollution (https://www.euronews.com/2020/04/13/covid-19-and-climate-how-much-impact-is-the-current-lockdown-really-having-on-our-environm).

Patrizia Marin

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