How the coronavirus is impacting the climate crisis

How the coronavirus is impacting the climate crisis

Every cloud has a silver lining, and it seems the disruption and devastation caused by COVID-19 has one, too.

For the past few weeks, the spread of the coronavirus has dominated every major news story and conversation. What began as a threat to the residents of Wuhan, China has now become a global pandemic, with governments around the world urging citizens to stay inside, wash their hands and isolate themselves as much as possible.

But how has this impacted the other major crisis of our time: climate change? According to satellite images from the European Space Agency (ESA), the coronavirus impact has slashed air pollution levels across the globe in what is being called the “largest scale experiment ever”.

The environmental impact of COVID-19

You might think that, because we’re spending more time at home, energy levels would be on the up. After all, surely we’re all using more gas and electricity than we normally would be thanks to social isolation.

However, domestic gas and electric are just a drop in the ocean when pitted against heavy climate hitters like air travel, vehicle emissions and heavy industry.

And as a result of the coronavirus, these factors have essentially been put on hold. Readings from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite show that over the past six weeks, levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over industrial areas in Asia and Europe have dropped dramatically, and are markedly lower than this time last year.

Usually produced by car engines, power plants and planes, the drop in NO2 is directly associated with the actions taking by governments to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Air pollution has already dropped in the UK

The UK might be more than a week behind other countries like Italy in terms of COVID-19 spread, but roadside monitors are already showing significantly reduced levels of pollution, especially in areas like London.

Road traffic makes up around 80% of NO2 emissions in the UK. Every kilometre not driven by the average diesel car stops 52 milligrams of NO2 entering in the air. Times this by the usual number of cars on the road and kilometres driven, and you’re looking at huge numbers.

This could have long-term positive effects

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus crisis has been nothing short of devastating on a global scale, but the environmental impact of its spread could thankfully bring some positive news for us all in the long run, according to Professor of Air Pollution at the University of Leicester, Paul Monks:

“It seems entirely probable that a reduction in air pollution will be beneficial to people in susceptible categories, for example some asthma sufferers. It could reduce the spread of disease. A high level of air pollution exacerbates viral uptake because it inflames and lowers immunity.”

At The Energy Check we have set our own ambitious targets for reducing both our own energy consumption and those of our clients over the coming months and years. Our goal for 2020 is to have made energy savings totalling £9.5 million, equating to 15GWh of consumption. This correlates to an incredible 90,000t of CO2 emissions. And if we were to predict one positive out of the current upheaval it would be that organisations will look more closely at the benefits of remote working, lean manufacturing and less resource-intensive processes in the future. This can only serve to help the fight against global warming.

Want to know how you can step up your efforts against carbon emissions and save on energy costs in the process? Simply click here to get in touch.