Since December, there have been over 7.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases in 188 countries and territories. The United States alone has had the most cases out of any country in the world, with over 2.1 million confirmed cases. As more and more people contracted the virus, many states went on lock-down, ordering their citizens to stay home with exceptions made for essentials such as food and medical treatments.
The lockdowns and stay-at-home orders had a domino effect on society. Non-essential businesses closed their doors. This meant fewer people were driving personal vehicles to work. This also meant that trucks full of shipments were not making cross-country drives to deliver to the now-closed businesses. Entire factory plants shut down during the pandemic. People stopped flying. The world came to a standstill. Therefore it came as no surprise when the journal Nature announced that there was a 17% decrease in global carbon emissions in April 2020 in comparison to the same month previous year.
However, states have now started to open back up. As of June 16th, forty-seven states are in the process of fully reopening. Only three states, California, Oregon, and Tennessee are opening regionally first. These openings are being followed with many businesses and people in a hurry to “catch up” on missed time and profits. Now an updated study shows that we have rapidly gone back up, with emissions only 5% lower than in 2019. The majority of the change in emissions came from the transportation sector. People no longer commuted, whether via personal vehicles or by plane for business trips or vacations. With emissions rapidly increasing, and not all states and countries fully open, we are looking at even higher numbers in the near future.
In 2015 the world came together and acknowledged that our planet was heading for a grim future if we don’t change what we were doing. All one-hundred and ninety-seven nations then signed the Paris Agreement, thereby promising to work towards fixing what we have destroyed. At the time, the United States pledged that by 2025 we will have decreased our emissions by 26-28%. That is in five years, and we have a long way to go. We can’t afford for the emissions to keep climbing after this pandemic. In an effort to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celcius, and stop the destruction of our planet, we must take into account the trend in emission decrease during lockdowns. We now know that it is possible for governments to act swiftly and unilaterally to enact sweeping regulations for the greater good. We also know that a large percentage of people can work remotely and remove inessential travel.
This change has to start with us. Here are some changes to think about implementing into your life:
- Walk or bike if you can.
- Take public transportation where it’s available.
- Find a carpool buddy (or better yet, group) at work or school, and take turns driving each other.
- If you’re going on a trip, see if you can take a bus or train instead, if not, look into offsetting your carbon emissions or ask your company to do so.
- Reach out to your local government and the FTA (Federal Transport Administration) and let them know you want more options in your area.
- Research Presidential candidates’ views on public transportation and vote this upcoming election!
I’m hearing a lot of people talk about how relieved they are that things are starting to go back to “normal” after this pandemic. But the truth is that we can’t go back to “normal.” Normal never existed; there are so many current issues that we need to be fighting for. The climate crisis is only one of them. We must learn, research, and speak up. Feel the joy of being able to see your friends and family again. Feel the joy of being able to interact with your favorite businesses and take care of yourself outside of your home. But acknowledge the issues that came up over these last few months and keep fighting for them.
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Photo by David Kovalenko on Unsplash