The coronavirus has attacked several countries worldwide economically, mentally, and emotionally. As countries perform their best in addressing their constituents’ healthcare needs, they should also take serious action on environmental implications. Several news articles and blogs regarding the pandemic’s environmental impacts have recently come to light. Meanwhile, environmentalists and experts are currently discerning whether these results are consequences or benefits. Will this extreme drop in global emissions make a difference, or lead to a sharp hike as old habits return?
Environmental Impacts Of The Pandemic
With mandatory lockdown in place, governments require citizens to stay home, prompting a significant drop in unnecessary travel. Transportation makes up 23% of global carbon emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Similarly, air travel drops to 60%, says the International Civil Aviation Organization. The aviation industry accounts for 2.5% of global greenhouse gases caused by energy-related emissions. Cities experience lesser carbon emissions and cleaner air since there are few private vehicles and flights.
However, this lockdown pushes people at home to order take-out instead, encouraging restaurant businesses to resort to using single-use plastics. When environmentalists thought entrepreneurs were through with plastic containers, utensils, and bags, these synthetic materials made a comeback. In turn, companies producing plastic materials need to settle the demand with a much-needed supply.
While some industries of non-essential items remain on hold, so are their production factories. Experts look into historical data, specifically during the economic downturn of 2008, stretching to 2009. Studying the numbers from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, global greenhouse gas emissions during the recession slowed. This pattern has led specialists to believe the same will happen this time around during the coronavirus. However, economies may see a spike in emissions the following year as industries would work to make up for their losses.
Citizens and businesses are losing their eco-friendly practices to adapt to the pandemic’s new normal. For instance, residential and retail stores are dropping proper waste management due to lack of workforce and possibly cost-cutting. Also, communities overlook the waste management of protective gear and healthcare materials.
These accumulated efforts result in what leading experts expect as a 0.3% drop in global greenhouse gas emissions for 2020. However, this drop is less evident compared to the change in emissions during the recession. This little drop does not guarantee any significant improvements to our environment. A substantial and impactful environmental feat in the world needs to follow environmentally sustainable habits.
Sustainable Actions After COVID-19
Given these pressing environmental issues, forward-thinking campaigners and environmentalists call upon businesses and governments to invoke sustainability. Citizens, enterprises, and authorities need to work together in this fight.
Some cities have already started implementing initiatives towards a new normal by adjusting their transportation systems when governments lift the quarantine. For example, they have replaced lanes for bikes instead of cars in Milan, Bogota, Seattle, and New York City.
Widening sidewalks will also promote a more liveable lifestyle as locals would feel safe to walk to public spaces instead. This widening will serve as an alternative to public transportation. Cities would need to invest in environment-friendly means of commute like electric vehicles while also considering the issue of social distancing.
Being cooped up at home all day causes much anxiety and stress. According to Dr Jelena Kecmanovic, Ph.D., “It is important to acknowledge that a lot of anxious thoughts and emotions will show up during this time, and to accept them rather than trying to push them away or escape them.” Mental health experts have also come forward with tips and practices to keep your emotional and mental health in check. They advise their patients to limit their social media time, create a healthy routine, and reflect on and accept emotions.
After this lockdown, societies can expect people to flock to public spaces. Therefore, it is best to prepare with a game plan. Some cities are finding creative ways to enforce “physical distance-friendly recreation” intended for exercise or walks. A need for recreational public spaces requires strict planning and implementation.
Other forms of recreation businesses should consider adapting are open-air dining for restaurants. Since the virus can spread in crowded areas, establishments can explore having outdoor dining experiences while keeping their diners at safe distances. They would also need to amp up their sanitary efforts as well. Meanwhile, drive-in movie theaters sound like a fun date post-pandemic.
Even as cities enjoy cleaner air and lesser emissions this time around, they should not be complacent. To make significant environmental impacts after this pandemic, communities need to work together with businesses and governments to practice greener and sustainable procedures. With collective efforts, the world can help each other move forward with the new normal.