The coronavirus disease brought to a halt social and economic activities around the world. With more than 100,000 people and 160 countries affected, the pandemic has forced governments to implement lockdown orders of varying degrees, reducing manufacturing and human and vehicular movement to the barest minimum.
While economies reel from the lockdown orders, with an estimated market loss of $10 billion globally, it would appear the climate is better for it.
Environmentalists climate enthusiasts and even private individuals have reported improvements in the quality of air and the state of the environment.
According to one estimate, the reduction in China’s pollution over two months -the period during which their lockdown order lasted- has probably saved the lives of 4,000 children aged under five and 30,000 adults over 70, exceeding the global deaths from coronavirus so far. These stats are calculated based on the recently released Word Health Organisation report stating that global ambient air pollution deaths in 2019 were around 4.2 million.
In Venice, there are reports of cleaner canals and deers roaming free in Japan.
Experts say that greenhouse gas emissions in China, the world’s largest current contributor to climate change, went down 25 percent as the country conducted a massive societal intervention to stop the spread of the virus. Air pollution is also down, due to decreased driving and less coal burning.
In Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub and epicentre of the coronavirus disease in the country, experts say there have been significant improvements since the lockdown commenced.
Renowned Nigerian environmentalist and chairman of Lagos State Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative (LUFASI), Professor Desmond Majekodunmi compares the effect of the lockdown on the environment with taking a smoking generator out of a locked room and the immediate change that will take place.
In an interview with An24.net, he said “The amount of toxic fumes that is released into every urban area of the world, including Lagos has reduced. Within just a few hours of the lockdown, there is a difference, let alone a few days, let alone a week. There is been a huge difference, no doubt. We have to get our head around this reality. The room in this case is the atmosphere.”
“The World Meteorological Organisation has some concrete data on these changes. There are certain locations monitoring the air quality since the pandemic started and the consensus is that there have been improvements since the lockdown started.” he added.
Chief Exexutive Officer of Africa Cleanup Initiative also had an exclusive chat with An24.net and said the pandemic had made it clear the attitude of humans was responsible for the state of our environment.
He said, ” One thing I have deduced so far with regards to the climate is that to a large extent, climate challenges are behavioral. It is about the attitude of humans to the environment.
“We have a part to play in addressing climate change. Look at how the reduction in vehicular movement and human activities has improved the atmosphere drastically. The kind of pollutants we allow get into the air has also reduced.
“The lockdown directive has also encouraged food responsibility and prevented waste because people are not sure how long this is going to last. People don’t move around much so the environment is cleaner as they are not disposing wastes on the road and waste collectors are clearing the ones on the road without having to bother about new ones being thrown around.”
Majekodunmi however cautioned that the world would not remain on lockdown forever. He noted that these changes were only short term and when commercial activities resume, there would be a need to review how humans interact with the environment.
“Of course our hope and prayer is that we learn from this and don’t continue making the same mistakes. The arrogance of humanity needs to be curtailed if not nature will throw far heavier breaks at us. We are a part of nature and when push comes to shove, we are not the ones who can control nature.
“We need to become very thoughtful about how we interact with the environment. This means we shouldn’t pollute, we should stop taking down our forests left, right and centre
He highlighted flooding, desertification, food and water shortages, excessive heat level and changes in bio diversity as some of the consequences of climate change.