The COVID-19 pandemic has had drastic impacts on the economy and unimaginable effects on human life. Despite all the misery caused by the novel-coronavirus, the environment has thrived.
Since millions are given stay-at-home orders, the carbon emissions from cars, trucks, and planes has been nearly eliminated. Data from NASA estimates that nitrogen dioxide levels (which causes acid rain and hinders plant growth) had shown a 30% drop in March compared to the average of that month in cities along the East Coast.
This immediate effect on the environment is exciting news for environmentalists and activists; however, this is providing more questions than answers for long-term environmental sustainability.
In order for carbon dioxide levels to begin to show relevant improvement, fossil fuel usage would have to decline about 10 percent for a full year, according to the United Nations Environment Program. The global emissions for 2020 are only projected to decrease about 0.3%, according to the Center for International Climate and Environment Research in Oslo, meaning that COVID-19 will likely only have minor impacts on the environment in terms of carbon emissions and climate change.
This has put hopes of the Green New Deal and other environmental proposals at an all-time low.
The Green New Deal is an environmental resolution aimed to tackle climate change and economic stability. It would include reducing carbon emissions steadily over the next decade as well as Medicare for all and a federal jobs guarantee.
Although this resolution found a lot of support out of the gate, COVID-19 has put – at best – a delay on this plan. Once life begins to return to normal, the immediate excitement will soon be replaced with a plethora of questions.
With 22 million more Americans on unemployment due to COVID-19, the economy will not be able to afford the $1.2 trillion that the Green New Deal would require.
This puts sustainability on the backburner more than ever as it is not deemed a necessity during a financial crisis.
But does planning for future environmental sustainability have to be delayed, too? Certainly not.
The next steps for sustainability will have to wait until the pandemic eases. Not only will the carbon emissions begin to rise again, but the amount of medical waste and single-use plastic items is incredibly high in order to maintain sanitation, according to Wired.
But anticipating the end of the pandemic and preparing a plan for long-term environmental sustainability is still a priority for the United Nations and other organizations. The details will just have to wait in the meantime.
Article provided by Samantha Hart