Quarantine and the Environment

Isabella Gourley, staff writer

As people around the world are forced to stay at home, the world around them changes for the better. But will we appreciate these changes to our environment and begin to transform our environmental endangerment actions or will we continue down our path of pollution and climate change?

These unintended environmental benefits are a result of mandated quarantine for select countries’ citizens to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Worldwide confirmed cases exceeded 4 million people infected and 324,000 dead due to COVID-19. However, these wonderful environmental changes provide a necessary positive light to the difficult situation at hand.

For example, around the world countries are witnessing clearer waters, specifically the clear canals in  Venice, Italy. Normally the waters are murky and unclear, but as a result of Italy’s efforts to manage the coronavirus, specifically the absence of boat rides, the water is now clear.  

Satellite observations have also shown that temporary coronavirus measures have also caused significant decreases in harmful emissions. One example is China where their restrictions contributed to a 25 percent drop in China’s carbon dioxide emissions over four weeks beginning in late January, compared to the same time last year, according to Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Finland. This is a result of the country’s overall halt in industrial operations and their travel restrictions reducing the country’s high levels of harmful emissions.

Although the reason we are witnessing these environmental benefits is grim, they offer a unique opportunity for scientists to offer tough lessons for how to prepare — and ideally, avoid — the most destructive impacts of climate change.

“If we can think about how to prepare for climate change like a pandemic, maybe there will be a positive outcome to all of this,” said Christopher Jones, lead developer of the CoolClimate Network, an applied research consortium at the University of California, Berkeley. “We can help prevent crises in the future if we are prepared. I think there are some big-picture lessons here that could be very useful.”

The absence of people on our planet stuck in mandatory quarantine allowed our planet to flourish, showing the human population that we are guests on this planet and Earth can thrive without us. This is the time to learn from our past mistakes and start on the path to transforming our environmental endangerment actions.