An Influence of COVID-19 on Climate Change

2020 has welcomed one of the worse pandemics, COVID-19, and its caused widespread changes around the world from the way people greet each other to plummeting oil & gasoline prices internationally. The coronavirus is in the process of making humans actively re-evaluate the way we live and conduct our lives. The change in human behavior as a result of this pandemic has had profound effects on several environmental factors. These environmental factors differ but some examples are its effect on fossil fuels, pollution, wildlife, and fewer density issues. The virus is making every one devise new plans like companies have workers work from home or students doing online courses to move forward but profound this change has already occurred so it’s unlikely things will ever be the same again. For example, a corporation leases out a big building for its employees to work out of. Now with the virus all its workforce is home and they are receiving the same/similar results from the workforce why would they need that building? This is just one example of how Covid-19 is effecting human activity and the environment. To begin to understand the coronavirus effects on the environment these issues must be separately analyzed. One major change that this has caused is the plummeting of gasoline/oil prices around the world. People see this every day whenever they go to get gas whenever they have to leave their home now and the prices are so low. The coronavirus pandemic has played a major role in the collapse of oil prices because people aren’t traveling as much. It’s not as simple as that but it’s undeniable the stay-at-home orders have played a tremendous role in the collapse of the market (Gladstone, 2020). “No one imagined a crisis of this scope. This was in no scenario,” claimed Daniel Yergin, who’s an expert on global energy. He’s also the vice-chairman of IHS Markit, a research firm (Gladstone, 2020). As well-cited, this was not seen as a possibility within the fossil fuel industry and they were not prepared. This could lead the pathway for global investments into alternative energies to power an economic recovery from this pandemic while also combatting climate change.

For the first time, in the U.S., oil prices fell below zero and it is threatening harsh economic repercussions. “The idea that we are energy dominant or independent is a fallacy,” said Jason Bordoff, a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and founding director of its Center on Global Energy Policy (Gladstone, 2020). The co-dependency created through these fossil fuels becomes abundantly clear in times like this because the U.S. cannot be completely energy reliant without Saudi Arabia or Russia. The global oil market’s effect on the United States has revealed that when oil prices rise, Americans feel the pain, and when oil prices collapse, the U.S. needs to call for help (Gladstone, 2020). According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) accelerations in investments into alternative energies could generate massive amounts of revenue globally that could help relieve some of the economic burden created by the coronavirus. The reports claim that the global GDP by one hundred trillion dollars between 2020 and 2050 (Ambrose, 2020). The global crisis has highlighted the major issues that exist within the fossil fuel industry like the damage it does to our global environmental standing. The effects of less-cars on the road can be seen in the ozone layer already so investing in alternative energies now seems like the best track to move forward properly addressing global issues. The IREA’s director-general, Francesco La Camera, also weighed in on this issue stating “the deep vulnerabilities of the current system” have been exposed by this virus. He was adamant that kickstarting economic growth should be down through investments into alternative energies because it’s would address climate change as well (Ambrose, 2020).

The agency’s report found that kickstarting these investments into alternative/renewable energies would address the climate issue and would pay for itself. These investments into these renewable energies would boost the global GDP by $98 trillion. This is above the “business-as-usual” scenario and by 2050 these investments would be returning, roughly, between $3 and $8 on every dollar (Ambrose, 2020). The effects on the fossil fuel industry are a direct result of less travel because of the pandemic. Across the globe, people are staying at home and this is having a direct effect, a positive one, on the environment in many ways. For example, images were taken in northern Italy and they’ve displayed a significant drop in pollutants in the ozone layer. Specifically, they showed drops in concentrations of nitrogen dioxide which is directly a result of less-traffic, and drop-off in other fossil fuel-run things like heating units (CBC News, 2020). This drop-off is happening worldwide as fewer people are out and about traveling and this is a massive shift that is a direct result of people staying at home and/or working from home. This is good news for our environment because it’s essentially being allowed to catch it’s breathe temporarily and during this humans must rethink how to combat climate change moving forward because visibly human effects on climate change are being shown clearly. The coronavirus has allowed switching gears from fossil fuels to more modern alternative sources of energy. To be progressive we have to take this opportunity to make switches in our health and energy systems. According to Dr. Faith Birol who heads the International Energy Agency, “we should not allow today’s crisis to compromise the clean energy transition” (Ambrose, 2020).

In political science terms, this a window of opportunity that governments around the world can look to invest/shift towards cleaner forms of energy and lessening the global dependency on fossil fuels. A bigger result of the gasoline & oil market declining is the overall lessening of pollution on earth overall. As mentioned above, less traffic accruing is resulting in the lessening of nitrogen dioxide into the ozone layers above northern Italy (CBC News, 2020). This is all a result because humans are actively trying to stop the spread of Covid-19 across the globe so fewer people are outside traveling as a whole. As businesses and various industries are put on hold we are seeing drastic decreases in carbon emissions into the ozone layer internationally (Henriques, 2020). This time last year compared to right now overall levels of pollution in the state of New York have reduced roughly 50% because of the various measures implemented to contain the coronavirus (Henriques, 2020). Similar stories to New York’s drop in emissions are playing out across the globe in places like China, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Just like New York, China had significant drops in its overall emissions when they were under stay-at-home orders due to the Covid-19. For example, coal use fell upwards of forty percent in China’s six largest coal-run power plants since the end of 2019, so roughly the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Overall, emissions dropped 25% to start 2020 because of the strict stay-at-home orders that China implemented to combat the virus (Henriques, 2020). This drop-in emissions and use of coal are having tremendous effects on the environment and it’s even more noticeable in a rampant polluter like China. Another good example of this is the fact that “good quality air” was up roughly 11.4% compared to this time last year in 337 cities in China. This is based on the proportion of days of “good quality air” and the stat was produced by the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment (Henriques, 2020).

This are just a couple of examples of things that are ultimately benefitting the environment temporarily because of a shift in human behavior/activity due to the coronavirus. The United Kingdom is experiencing similar decreases in pollutants and carbon emissions just like China as a result of this pandemic. Air pollution in the U.K. is down because of less traffic and the effects on air quality are beginning to be seen. According to the article, the London Air Quality Network, which is run by King’s College London, has stated that pollution is dropping compared to average levels, especially roadside pollution (Speare-Cole, 2020). The roadside pollution is another direct result of the stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus. Other experts have also ruled in on improving air quality as a result of these changes in human traffic, density, and other issues. For example, Alastair Lewis, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, claimed that \"air quality has started to improve in many UK cities, mirroring what has been seen in other countries that have restricted travel and levels of outdoor activity”. (Speare-Cole, 2020). Just like China, the U.K is experiencing reductions in its overall levels of pollution and emissions because of this pandemic but it displays yet again how humans impact the environment. The pandemic shouldn’t be glorified for saving our environment at the cost of human life but it should definitively display our effect on the world and the need to alter our behavior within this window of opportunity. Just like China, Italy, and the United Kingdom Spain is experiencing drops in its overall level of emissions as a result of this pandemic. Spain just like these other states has developed more strict rules to address the Covid-19 and it’s had a profound impact on the overall levels of emissions and pollution. The two best examples in Spain are the decreased levels of emissions coming out of Barcelona and Madrid (Planelles, 2020).

Just like Italy, the levels of nitrogen dioxide caused by traffic dropped significantly following the first couple weeks of lockdown because of less traffic and less-use of fossil fuels as a whole. According to a report by Greenpeace, both these cities had hit “historic lows” in regards to levels of NO2 in the ozone layer above Spain. You can see drastic drop offs in this in each city like Madrid dropped roughly 75% following the previous week and Barcelona fell 45% within a week as well (Planelles, 2020). This all has to be taken with as a grain of salt to fully address our climate change issues but with these stay-at-home orders in place around the globe, it’s possible to see the full extent of the damage humans add to the environment regularly. These are all examples of how coronavirus is actively changing the world we live in by changing our behaviors and our environment. This is all temporary because as soon as it “ends” industries will open back up and the nitrogen dioxide from traffic will resume in all big cities across the world, especially in China and the United States. To properly address climate change and issues involving pollution, density, and traffic we need to take a good look at our society and implement new ways to address these things. One solution could be to start having more workers work from home rather than drive into dense cities with their cars. An idea that can be implemented on a federal scale to begin to address the issue of traffic in major cities is something, Governor. Charlie Baker did in Massachusetts. The bill essentially is putting 18 billion towards transportation investments with a tax credit to incentivize employers to allow their employees to work from home (Vandette, 2019). This would allow workers to work from home and get cars off the road and that sounds like a win-win. Cities across America have congestion issues with millions of vehicles coming into and out of them all day so by incentivizing employers to allow workers to stay home it would lessen congestion, ideally (Vandette, 2019). This style of telecommunicating work is being implemented during this current pandemic and companies are beginning to see the benefits of having some of their employees working from home. There are clear economic benefits for companies like these tax credits but also less office-space required, and just in general fewer costs. This is just one small factor though because it also can be the first step towards combating congestion within cities in the fight against climate change.

Unfortunately, a pandemic is starting to make big corporations realize they don’t need all these things like massive skyscrapers filled with employee’s but it’s a start. Telecommuting for work is a step forward for bettering our environment and lessening overall pollution in cities by getting more cars off the road. Telecommuting could also work for federal employees and by doing this the government could be at the forefront of a more-green future for the workforce and particularly cities. According to a Global Workplace Analytics report that was conducted in 2013 found that it if the government began telecommuting its workforce it could reduce as many emissions as the equivalent of planting sixteen million trees (Global Workplace Analytics, 2013). This could save upwards of 11 billion for taxpayers over a single year as well because the government will be cutting costs significantly. There was an earlier piece of federal legislation that required federal workers to telecommute to what they described as “the maximum extent”. In 2010, the Telework Enhancement Act passed and it supposedly was to add more stringent requirements to earlier one in 2000 but it never was fully implemented. The most recent report on the status of Telework in the Federal Government shows that 32% of federal employees can work from home, yet only 6% do (Global Workplace Analytics, 2013). If this were to be implemented at full capacity congestion in cities across would America indefinitely change? It is hard to tell but the Covid-19 pandemic has brought light to many failing institutions and organizations across the globe and how systems often fail in times of crisis regardless of how predictable. This is especially true of issues about the environment and it’s now direr than ever to confront these issues rather than reinvest in old styles of energy and transportation. They’re clear issues about city congestion, pollution, and the overall emissions that are the result of these things and with the streets empty we see what happens without people on them. Investments into alternative energies can be started now and the reliance on the fossil fuel industries can stop because even in the transitional stages a hybrid system of both alternative and fossil fuel it’s better than going back to the way things were.

This is an optimistic view in many ways because lot countries, including the U.S., are massive producers of oil and petroleum and it would be unlikely to this implemented but it’s possible. A post-Covid19 world still reliant on fossil fuels seems unsustainable and just purely stupid moving forward. In the case of the U.S., the shift towards alternative energies can be now to jump-start the economy and kick off a brand new sector providing thousands of jobs to Americans. According to a recent opinion by Fred Kempe, this shift towards alternative energies is now direr than ever and the window of opportunity is more clear now than ever (Kempe, 2020). The U.S. is heavily divided down a partisan line and this seems likely to happen under President. Trump\'s administration but this shift seems more obvious now than ever. The crashing oil/gas prices, the cleaner air, the-less congested cities are all clear indicators of what we should be striving to do. Not empty cities or permanently making the entire workforce work from home but it should be reimagined because not everyone needs to be driving every day, especially into cities. According to the world\'s energy watchdog, renewable electricity will be the only source of energy that will be able to completely persevere through this coronavirus pandemic (Ambrose, 2020). This more proof of how unreliable and how unsustainable the current trend on fossil fuel is and this shift towards cleaner and more green energy is necessary. The outbreak of Covid-19 is in the process of wiping out demand for fossil fuels and it’s going to prompt a collapse in energy demand seven times more than the 2008 financial collapse. In a report, the International Energy Agency said this would be the most severe downfall in energy demand since the second world war. In turn, this will trigger multi-decade lows for the world’s consumption of gas, oil, and coal while renewable energy will continue to grow (Ambrose, 2020).

This steady rise in renewable energies across the globe combined with the collapse in demand for fossil fuels means clean energy will begin to play a larger role in the global energy system this year, and help erase a decade’s growth of global carbon emissions, ideally. The year 2020 has been a crazy year and on top of it all, it has welcomed one of the worse pandemics and has begun to cause widespread change around the world. This has changed the way people greet each other to plummeting oil & gasoline prices and this has caused widespread concern for how we operate as a society and globally. The coronavirus is in the process of making humans actively re-evaluate the way we live and conduct our lives. The change in human behavior as a result of this pandemic has had profound effects on the environment and we can see the human effect on climate because of the recovery we’ve seen in the air in numerous places globally. The virus is making society as a whole conducts new ways to operate like companies have workers work from home or students doing online courses to move forward but profound this change has already occurred so it’s unlikely things will ever be the same again because the way society was run is not sustainable. Corporations moving forward should strive to seek smaller office spaces and rely on workers to work from home and make those investments because it is greener and more economically feasible for the future. Covid-19 has drastically changed the trajectory of the future and we must change accordingly. This means investing in greener energies to lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and it also means actively creating legislation to combat this.