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The Environmental Impacts of Covid-19

From recording breaking rain in February to the sunniest April and May on record could recent lifestyle changes combat these extremes?

We’re nearly half way through 2020 and we have already seen how climate change is affecting weather patterns. From the wettest February on record to the sunniest April and May, these extremes will become ever more common in the future if we don’t take action now. Tuesday 24th March marked the start of the UK’s lockdown in the fight against coronavirus and for the majority of the population, everyday life changed dramatically, but could some of these changes have a positive effect on the climate?

Highlighted in one of our recent blogs, February 2020 was characterised by heavy rainfall, severe weather and storms. There was widespread flooding across the country, which is in direct contrast to April and May. Both April and May were the sunniest on record, April 2020 was the third driest April on record in Northern England and May 2020 was the driest May on record! Experts believe that extreme weather events such as storms and extended periods of dry weather will become more common in the future.

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, most of us have been working from home or spending large amounts of time at home. The overall impact that the pandemic has had on the climate is unclear. However, since the lockdown was implemented:

  • There have been less cars on the road commuting to and from work or for days out;
  • Vehicles are using less fuel;
  • Public transport has been running less frequently due to reduced demand;
  • There has been less demand on gas, electric and water as shops and businesses have been closed;
  • There have been fewer flights due to travel restrictions; and
  • Business meetings have been taking place virtually.
Hugh Llewelyn / Manchester Picadilly Station / CC BY SA 2.0

As our world slowly goes back to ‘normal’, we should be mindful of CO2 emissions. Should companies look to more flexible working and allow employees to work from home? Could more meetings be held online to reduce the need to travel? It is important that we all do our bit to try, both at work and at home, to reduce the effects of climate change. Below are a few things that you can do at home and as a family to help:

  • Recycle your waste ♻️
  • Use LED light bulbs and install a motion sensor where possible, or switch them off when leaving the room💡
  • Switch off all electrical appliances when you aren’t using them📺
  • Wear jumpers and cardigans instead of switching the heating on🥼
  • Eat locally produced food, eat less red meat and have more of a plant-based diet 🌱
  • Take shorter showers instead of baths 🚿
  • Use public transport, cycle or walk wherever you can 🚄

According to The International Energy Agency (IEA), the world will use 6% less energy this year, which is the equivalent to losing the entire energy demand of India! Full lockdowns have also pushed global electricity demand down by 20% or more. Across the full year, the need for electricity will fall by 5% – the biggest drop since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Also, the IEA have said that the global average road transport activity fell to 50% of the 2019 level by the end of March 2020. According to a recent BBC article, Britain’s electricity grid has not have burnt any coal for 60 days – as of midnight on Wednesday 10 June. That is by far the longest period since the Industrial Revolution began more than 200 years ago.

If there was a global effort to consider permanently implementing some of the changes that the pandemic brought, such as working from home more to reduce commuting, holding meetings virtually and using public transport and walking where possible, we may see a continued further reduction in emissions. Although it may be a long time before CO2 emissions and the warming of the planet meet net zero, if everyone took small steps, we could all help combat climate change and reduce the frequency of extreme weather events such as flooding and droughts.   

Sources used: BBC

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