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Coronavirus, environmental impact and climate change

One unexpected impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been the improvement in the quality of the environment. Due to lockdown, the amount of industrial activity and vehicular traffic, particularly road and air, has decreased very significantly and the benefits have included reductions in -

  • Air pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Greenhouse gas emissions

The reduction in road traffic has encouraged more people to reclaim the road space for walking and cycling in many towns and cities thereby improving air quality.

A number of well known people have observed that once the pandemic is over –
“ the outbreak has proven that society in its present form is not sustainable and we need to choose a new way forward”. Greta Thunberg also noted “that the global response demonstrated how quickly change could happen when humanity united and acted on the advice of scientists”.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, observed in a message for Earth Day (22 April) “that the pandemic was the biggest threat that the world had faced since 1945 but that the environmental emergency was deeper. He believed that the post pandemic recovery should include –

  • Creation of green jobs whose activities would have little or no environmental impact
  • Taxpayer support for sustainable growth
  • End to fossil fuel subsidies

Impact of habitat loss
Pope Francis observed that “ the coronavirus has put a spotlight on values. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and learn to understand and contemplate the natural world”. He added “ this is the time to take the decisive step and move from misusing nature to contemplating it”.

The world’s leading biodiversity experts have warned that “the coronavirus is likely to be followed by outbreaks of even more deadly diseases unless their root cause – the rampant destruction of the natural world – is rapidly halted. Some 70% of emerging diseases in humans originate from close contact of people with animals ”.

“Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development as well as exploitation of wild species have created a perfect storm for the spill over of diseases.”

They conclude that “the health of people is intimately connected to the health of wildlife, livestock and the health of the environment” [Preparatory remarks to a new draft by the International Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and and Ecosystems Services]

All texts from articles in the Guardian newspaper.

 

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