Earlier this week, on April 22nd, Earth Day celebrated its 50th anniversary, and although many of us would have liked to spend the day exploring the wonders of our planet, this year’s celebration was different given the global pandemic. The theme set for this year’s Earth Day was Climate Action. An applicable theme given the many positive effects we have seen around the world as a result of social distancing and reduced travel. Here are just a few of those positive environmental outcomes:
- Air pollution: Air quality has largely improved due to COVID-19. Big cities in the Northeast such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston have reported a 30 percent decrease in air pollution when compared to data from last year1. Such improvement has also been seen in other parts of the world. China has seen a reduction in nitrogen dioxide – a pollutant generated from burning fossil fuels – by 40 percent and the United Kingdom dropped its level of nitrogen dioxide even further by 60 percent2.
- Clean water: The pandemic has had an unexpected and positive side effect in Venice. The normally cloudy canals have transformed into crystal clear water – so much that one could see fish swimming. With less boats in the waterways, it is the clearest the canals have been in over 60 years3.
- Coal consumption: Another positive impact on the environment as a consequence of COVID-19 is the marked drop in coal consumption. China is, at present, one of the biggest producers and consumers of coal. It is estimated that the country consumed around 59 percent of all coal consumption for their energy needs in 2018, fueling much of China’s industry, including being a domestic fuel source for many of its citizens. China’s major coal-fired power stations saw a 36 percent drop in consumption between February and March this year, according to CREA analysis of WIND data.4
While many of us are keen to return to normal life, whatever that new normal may look like, these positive environmental outcomes are a good reminder that our planet needs our attention and that every action has an impact. These temporary changes prove that immediate action can have significant effects on the climate, and more long-term changes must be made in order to create the most positive environmental results for Earth.