NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens
The lockdowns intended to curb the spread of the Coronavirus have had a noticeable effect on the environment. With much automobile and airplane travel disrupted, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has begun dropping significantly. Lockdowns led to 200 million less metric tons of pollutants being released into the atmosphere in China, compared with the same timeframe in 2019. Both NASA and the EU’s European Space Agency are also reporting decreased emissions from lack of car travel and industrial shutdowns.
There have been visible, if anecdotal, effects on wildlife. In many places wild animals have been spotted in empty town centers, including Charlottesville-I myself noticed a fox on the Corner while running at UVA.
However, there are worries that this could be offset by the environmental costs of the pandemic. A UN conference on climate change mitigation was postponed to meet social distancing requirements, and many point to the increased industrial activity, and accompanying rise in emissions, after the recession twelve years ago as an example of what countries will do to prop up collapsing economies once the lockdowns are over.