Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Environment

On land, in air, and at sea, our contribution to greenhouse emissions has substantially slowed, leaving nature leisure to discard lofty levels of man-made pollution with each and every quarantine day.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Environment

Enzo Rabiller, Contributor

Traffic remains the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the United States. With every gallon of gasoline burned, a staggering 9 kilograms of CO2 is released into the atmosphere.  But with the implementation of quarantine throughout the U.S. and worldwide, carbon dioxide has been wiped off the streets, and coal power plants are running “down between 35 and 40% from last year” said Matthew Preston, a coal analyst at the Wood Mackenzie firm. And I’d give his words good credit, the results are visible from space!

“Air pollution levels as observed by satellite are showing drastic improvements in many areas that have been undergoing restrictive quarantines due to COVID-19,” said Peter DeCarlo, an Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University. One of the most important impacts of quarantine is the vast reduction of activity on roads, according to DeCarlo. But, I believe that the coal industry has more to say about the future of energy. These factories are experiencing a massive shortage of staff and activity, furthering the decrease in emissions. Meanwhile, renewable energies like wind and solar power have actually generated more power than coal throughout the U.S. in mid-April of 2020, a first-time occurrence, according to the Rhodium Group. In fact, throughout India, which most heavily implements reusable energy, the Himalayas can finally be seen again from afar for the first time in decades! Quarantine does counter negative effects in several spectrums of society, such as traffic, but I have found that more so in the atmosphere.

Airlines are also on a shortage of clientele, forced to lay off most staff members, such as my own parents, as borders all around the world are closed to avoid contributing to the pandemic. My father, a pilot, and Mother, a flight attendant, have both encountered undesirable 401k issues, and have little time to recover this monetary value before their retirement, meanwhile, take good care of their family. However, I find it important, as this contributes to a decrease in air traffic, and simultaneously, NO2/CO2 emissions as well as the virus spread. Economic slowing and reduced traffic have put a halt on outgoing pollution and the results range all over the world, not just in Florida’s environment.

Now that air traffic is out of the equation, what hidden surprises has quarantine stashed in the great seas? Did you know, ambient noise from cargo ships and other maritime traffic can increase stress-hormone levels in marine creatures? This can go as far as compromising their reproductive success in the process! The coal consumption of these ships is also quite pollutive, especially during past cargo and engine accidents. So, I believe traffic reduction is playing a big role in the observable trend of thriving nature on land, in air, at sea, and finally, in Florida.

The polluted skies of Florida and other states have cleared up, dramatically in some areas, but I think temporarily in all. Currently, water treatment plants still treat water, and some power plants still pollute to produce a quota of required domestic electricity. Additionally, March through May is the most common time period for high levels of pollutive gasses such as ozone, a health threat to people with heart and lung disease. Most peculiar though, is that different parts of Florida saw between a 17 and 21% drop in ozone just this March, a change deemed to be statistically significant by the Florida environmental division. So, conclusively, we can assume the atmosphere will benefit from quarantine throughout all the world, on land, in air, and at sea.