Coronavirus outbreak all over the world has been specifically connected to less air pollution. In any case, it is a few kinds of extraordinary lessons we got to realize that we are actually in a war with so many dangerous things in our lives.
Not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also what’s been decreased with its effects, air pollution. Air pollution itself is an archenemy we have been fighting since industrial era. And coronavirus lockdown has ‘helped’ us a bit to hamper its effects.
The fact is, coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown applied in many countries have helped us to reduce air pollution, especially carbon dioxide emission, up to 17%. That’s a huge number in fact, because that’s the biggest number we have ever experienced since modern days.
However, experts said that it is not enough, moreover looking on today’s trend where lockdowns are eased and borders are reopened. Some said that we need longer lockdown to solve our air pollution problems, and some other said that it is already too late and we need a new way to clean our air without the ‘help’ of coronavirus.
How come experts stated those extreme statements? Here in this article we are going to tell you about the truth.
Before the pandemic took place, the amount of carbon dioxide emission released into the earth’s air steadily growing by 1% each year. It means every year we produce the same amount of last year, with slightly additional amount of carbon dioxide added.
In short, we are steadily polluting our air more and more. However, in 2019, a record was made because the year’s number showed that there was no growth compared to the year before. Sounded like a good thing, but it still means that we were still polluting the air with the same amount of contaminant as the year before.
The growth of renewable energy and conversion made by developed countries into more sustainable energy generation methods were the reasons for 2019 phenomenon. We are allowed to be optimistic for our future too, if the trend continues.
While we were celebrating the achievement, we were shocked by coronavirus outbreak that diverted our focus to it since early 2020. The virus spread all over the world in months and many countries tried to tackle the pandemic by issuing lockdown orders.
Practically, with the lockdown, most people on earth are prevented to litter our air with carbon dioxide emissions from factories and vehicles. This is the reason why 2020 record shows huge decrease in carbon dioxide emission level compared to last year.
17% Carbon Dioxide Decrease
As stated above, the decline of carbon dioxide emission in the air is only 83% of last year’s record. It means that compared to 2018, we have been emitting 17% less carbon dioxide to the air (since 2019 showed stagnancy).
It still means that we are still emitting such amount of carbon dioxide to the air, regardless the number. But a decrease in steady growth is something unpreceded of, and is good news we need to celebrate about all around the world.
“Globally, we haven’t seen a drop this big ever, and at the yearly level, you would have to go back to World War II to see such a big drop in emissions,” said Corinne Le Quéré, a professor of climate change science at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.
The problem is, this is not something that will keep on happening from now on. This is a tragedy that we hope only happens once in our lifetime, if not once forever, and it can be over. indeed, the tragedy means a little repair to the air quality, but this is not what we all want.
“But this is not the way to tackle climate change — it’s not going to happen by forcing behavior changes on people. We need to tackle it by helping people move to more sustainable ways of living,” Le Quéré added as quoted from NBC.
Soon after it all over, we might get back to our ‘normal’ days. The days where we pollute the air with our carbon dioxide emission from the vehicles we drive and from factories where we produce the things we need for our modern lives.
Even nowadays, when instructions to stay at home have been gradually taken off, we have started to do our dirty normal routines. We cannot depend on coronavirus to clean our air, let alone on the ‘new normal’ term to undo the mistakes we have done before the pandemic started.
The problem here is that experts predicted that there will be some rebound effects after the long pause. We can already see it from how China try to recover its economy back to what it was before the pandemic, resulting in increasing air pollution in the country rapidly.
“Despite all of the changes that are happening around the world to our lifestyle and consumption behaviors, we’re only going to see a reduction of 7 percent this year,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the University of California, Berkeley
Hausfather stated that this pause means nothing if we don’t use this time to rethink about what we must do for the future. “Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for a very long time, so climate change is driven more by the total amount we’ve ever emitted than any amount we emit in a single year,” Hausfather said.
It Is Not Too Late
So, what does 2020 means to climate scientists? For the scientists, the year and the pandemic mean a brief pause to the ticking bomb. “It’s like you have a bath filled with water and you’re turning off the tap for 10 seconds,” said Le Quéré.
We are just buying time for about a year if not less to reach our global mission. Our global mission is to prevent the earth having additional 1.8 degrees Celsius of warming, and this pause doesn’t cool the earth down at all. Only buying time, just like the researchers said.
However, it is still not too late at all for us to do something. If we spend our time to find a way to cut global emission, or at least keep it this low, we will have more time to stop the time bomb. Turning into greener energy generation is the answer for the questions, the cure for the real disease: air pollution.
Before the pandemic hit, a trend toward green energy has been spread worldwide. In order to maintain the positive side of this story positive, we should not stop converting from dirty energy to greener alternatives.
We still have time to undo our mistakes. The final question is, do we really want to diffuse the bomb, or just let it blow?