6 Ways Coronavirus is Changing the Environment

The coronavirus is upending everything from aviation to the economy — and it's also having a big impact on the environment.

Some of those are positive — a big (albeit likely temporary) drop in CO2 emissions as factories shutter and the economy sputters — while others are negative — growing piles of possibly infected waste like tissues and old face masks.

Here are six ways coronavirus is already having an effect.

1. Improvements in air quality: A drop in air pollution was first observed by NASA in China’s Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak began in December

2. Greenhouse gas emissions: Slowing economic activity also drives down emissions — if only temporarily. As countries order the closedown of schools, shops and factories, emissions are expected to fall.

3. Mountains of waste: There have also been warnings to err toward eating pre-packaged foods, for example at work functions — despite an effort by the European Food Safety Authority to reassure people that, so far, there is “no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.”

4. More room on the metro: A surge in working from home may lead to changes in people’s long-term habits or a loss of services in some (relatively) cleaner forms of transport.

5. Stalled airline emissions: Air traffic has taken a nosedive since the virus spread to Europe. Despite previous projections of growth, 67 million fewer passengers flew in the first three months of 2020 compared to the year before.

6. Climate is no longer the crisis: With the virus consuming everybody’s attention, the climate issue has been crowded off the agenda

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on Wednesday urged her followers via Instagram to shift the ongoing Fridays for Future protests into cyberspace. When it comes to coronavirus, “We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis and we must unite behind experts and science,” she wrote. “This of course goes for all crises.”

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