The positive effects human isolation is having on the environment

While humanity has been put under strain as the coronavirus crisis escalates, the environment has seen temporary relief. With the lack of human movement and economic activity there has been a decrease in the level of global air pollution, water pollution has begun to clear and natural wildlife is starting to appear as if they are coming out of hiding.

One of the most celebrated environmental changes has come from Venice as the usually murky canal waters have begun to clear up for the first time in what one resident said feels like ‘forever’. 

Following the reduction of boats and cruise ships in the area as the country went into lockdown early March, water pollution levels have significantly dropped and the canals have become a beautiful shade of blue again with schools of fish now easily visible and swans in sight.

In the Italian island of Sardinia dolphins have been bringing joy to locals as they were spotted swimming close to the port of Cagliari (falsely reported to be spotted in Venice).

Meanwhile, wild boars have been spotted roaming the streets in other European cities like Barcelona. And across the globe in Nara, Japan, residents have spotted deers wandering through typically urban streets, while turkeys have apparently been sited around California. 

Improved air quality

To try and prevent the spread of COVID-19, airlines have cut a significant portion of their flights and people have been advised to self-isolate in their homes. Countries with strict quarantine measures like China, where the outbreak or in Wuhan, have since seen improved air quality.

According to NASA the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – mainly produced by vehicles, industrial sites and thermal power stations –  fell dramatically between January and February. The reduction was estimated at between 10-30 per cent.

coronavirus environmental effects: Air pollution levels
Image: NASA Earth Observatory

The European Space Agency also reported the same pattern in northern Italy which went into strict quarantine at the beginning of March. It’s been said that the NO2 concentration levels have been almost halved on average. A drop in emissions is also becoming noticeable in Spain and it is predicted that Australia will eventually follow suit as lockdown measures ramp up. 

According to past studies, air pollution provokes around 8.8 million premature deaths which has led experts to believe the reduction in pollution may have helped save more lives during the coronavirus threat, especially in China. 

However, as life slowly returns back to normal, so too, do the nitrogen dioxide levels. Yet, climate scientists Robyn Schofield and Michael Mann believe the dramatic changes show how the world can mobilise to act on climate change.

“There are absolutely lessons to be learnt that socially we can change and we can change quite quickly and it can have great health benefits,” Dr Schofield said to SBS, while also noting that it may just take a push from the government to do so. 

Hopefully, this coronavirus side effect will actually be a positive lesson learnt during the pandemic and future environmental policies.

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