Covid-19 – A Dreadful Contagion or an Environmental Saviour?

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The impacts of Covid-19 have left people trapped inside their homes, and socially inept because of the risks of transmission. But, the satellite images of the drops in the air pollution in the hotspots of Covid-19 are the only silver lining that has attracted the attention of the people.

This is possibly the only shred of light to this otherwise dark story.

But, these are also the salient reminders of the possible dread that we are about to experience once everything returns to normal. As the lockdowns are lifted and people start living their normal lives, it is likely that the impacts on the environment could come in multiple folds worse than what it is now.

Even with all the uncertainties that we are likely experiencing now and have in our minds, we can’t necessarily brush aside the fact that Covid-19 has helped the environment heal and cope with the threat of climate crisis.

While the world was experiencing constant impacts environmentally starting with the Amazon forest fires, followed by the Australian bush fires and so on and so forth, things have gotten better with the imposed lockdown after Covid-19.

History Repeats Itself?

Amidst the initial aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, it recorded sudden drastic reductions in the levels of global CO2 emissions around the world. The same was reduced in fossil fuel combustion and cement production by 1.4% which was then followed by a steep rise by 5.9% in 2010.

While the year of 2020 was believed to be the pivotal year of possible discussions of climate change under the UN’s annual climate summit, the impending spread of the novel coronavirus has put a stopper to those.

How has the Covid-19 impacted the environment for the better?

It is not new for social media posts to flourish suggesting how clear the skies have become and how the mountain ranges has come into clear view.

These instances are enough for you to understand that while the contagion has put a sudden stopper to our lives, it has managed to buy some time for the climate to get better and the Earth to heal itself.

Drop In Air Pollution

The capital city of India, New Delhi, which has always complained about the bad air and the toxic rates of air pollution experienced a sudden drop in the same. The air has become a lot cleaner to breathe in.

With the massive dip in the vehicular movement and the impacted industrial operation, the one thing that has come out to be good is the cleaner and fresher air to breathe.

The NASA satellite sensors have even observed the aerosol levels to be at its lowest in 20 years in some parts of northern India.

“We knew we would see changes in atmospheric composition in many places during the lockdown. But I have never seen aerosol values so low in the Indo-Gangetic plain at this time of year,” said Pawan Gupta, Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientist at NASA.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India has also reported a 71% drop in the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air. Several of the metropolitan cities in India have witnessed a fall in the Air quality index.

Even the National Green Tribunal has reported that the lockdown imposed because of Covid-19 has contributed to improved air quality.

Ozone layer Healing isn’t Because of Covid-19

Getting to know about the positive changes in the world’s environment is always nice but it is important to check facts.

While the sudden ozone layer healing has been associated with the imposed lockdowns because of Covid-19, that is not necessarily the case, according to the scientists.

The scientists reported that the largest hole in the ozone layer above the arctic region has closed. Following the news, the netizens have started claiming that it is likely that the same is because of the positive effects of the lockdown.

“It has been driven by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex, the high-altitude currents that bring cold air to the polar regions. This is not related to change in air quality,” the scientists exclaimed.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), the European Union’s earth monitoring programme later clarified all the misinformation saying, “This Arctic ozone hole actually has nothing to do with coronavirus-related lockdowns, but rather was caused by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex,”

While there have been positive changes in the environment because of the imposed Covid-19 lockdowns, it is not a matter to celebrate at the moment. Situations are likely going to get better before they get worse and this could be a possible instance of that.

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