Covid-19 presented a rollercoaster 2020 year for the environment. While a global pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy, the planet received a much-needed break from emissions-intensive sectors. Not only did large cities see some of the clearest skies in decades, but a surging trend in renewable energy could pave the way to similarly clear skies in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its environmental impact
While everyone was trapped in quarantine, emissions-intensive sectors faltered. Travel and many other industries grinded almost to a halt and there were less gas-emissions being released worldwide.
At first, stimulus resources in many countries went towards emissions-intensive sectors (i.e. fossil fuel production, heavy industry, agribusiness, etc.) instead of transitioning towards greener development. Deforestation in Brazil, for example, was at the highest it’s been since 2008.
But then, as people witnessed some of the clearest skies in decades, an improvement in water quality in rivers and seas, and so much more, industries were met with a higher demand for renewable energy.
The global energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy
As interest in emissions-intensive sectors faltered, renewable energy sources like electric cars, solar and wind energy, and smart grids were suddenly in high demand. Sustainability began trending as companies like Tesla began striving for more sustainable energy options.
That initial demand for fossil fuels – like coal – plummeted and governments from the U.K. to California announced plans to ban sales of new gasoline-powered cars in the next 10-15 years.
Covid-19 pandemic also raised awareness of “One Health”
While some focused on the health of our planet, others began to focus on the interdisciplinary nature between humans and environment. “One Health,” an initiative to unite human and veterinary medicine opened the world’s eyes to just how intertwined human health is with that of animal and ecosystem. Epidemiologists and conservationists have long asserted that “our current approaches to agriculture and livestock production create conditions that enable wildlife pathogens to jump to humans.” Now, communities all over the world, from health to finance, started to pay attention.
China established new restrictions on the wildlife trade, more research has been done on zoonotic diseases, and the world listened as scientists warned that the next global pandemic could come from areas where forests are rushed into converted farms and ranches, like the cattle slaughterhouses in the Amazon rainforest.
2020: A vaccination for the planet
The societal impact of COVID-19 has been devastating, but while we may not have a solution for the pandemic, we can still pour our energy into making the world a better place to live. While engineers and businessmen may not have the resources to create a vaccine for us, they do have the ability to vaccinate the planet from further destruction. Despite all the chaos that has ensued from these trying times, hopefully we can at least come out of it saying that the pandemic paved the way to a better future, one reliant on renewable energy.