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Earth Day 2021: Covid-19 and environment

On International Mother Earth Day, we look at the progress we have made in the past 1 year in regards to climate change and its effects on humanity and wildlife. The advent of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns had a major impact on climate change and reiterated the idea of humans being the biggest contributor to the degradation of mother earth. 

United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres called for a commitment to restoring the planet and making peace with nature, these remarks came on International Mothers Earth Day which is celebrated on the 22nd day of April every year.

The General Secretary also urged nations to work towards achieving the goal of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 °C. According to the Paris Climate Accord which is an agreement within the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”, the aim is to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 °C and pursue efforts to limit the rise to 1.5 °C.

The general consensus among scientists paints a grim picture of how the future will look like if the emissions are not curtailed. 

Covid-19 and nature

The advent of Covid-19 in late 2019 and subsequent lockdowns had a major impact on not only those who contracted the virus but on healthy people who were asked to stay in their homes by the various governments around the world in order to contain the spread.

These lockdowns had a major psychological impact on people; various studies conducted showed there was a sharp rise in depression, domestic abuse, and financial insecurity amongst the populace.

It comes as a surprise to learn that Covid-19 had one positive impact on the world, which is, it tremendously improved the quality of our environment.

The subsequent lockdowns which followed the outbreak of Covid-19 had a major impact on global carbon emissions, all major nations saw a sharp drop in emission rates, for example, China which is the biggest emitter saw a drop of 25 per cent, the USA, on the other hand, saw its emissions fall by 18 per cent.

Many countries besides China and the United States saw a drastic fall in carbon emissions, the positive impact was not only limited to carbon emission but also had an effect on marine life which started to thrive because of the absence of humans; the quality of water also saw a sharp rise as there was less waste being poured into the oceans, lakes, and rivers.

These studies on the impact of covid-19 on climate change show the inexorable reality of the impact humans have had on the planet, and the realization of the reality of how we need the earth more than the earth needs us.

According to Steven Davis, Associate Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, in recent years, we have generated around 500 tons of CO2 per $1 million of the world’s GDP. In 2019, 40 billion tons of CO2 were emitted per $88 billion of the world’s GDP. Naturally, the recession brought on by covid-19 saw emission rates fall.

This stark realization of how economic growth is being fueled by the degradation of mother earth inclines one to question the debts being incurred on behalf of future generations and raises the existential question of how long can we continue on this path?

There is an urgent need for governments to provide incentives through tax breaks to incentivize the free market to develop renewable energy so the world can then transition from coal and oil to a new energy source. 

The rise of private companies like Tesla have created an atmosphere of competition which saw many new companies entering the competition to dominate the markets, these companies are investing billions into R&D to come up with new ways and technologies to make these cars more affordable hence the future with electric cars will contribute immensely in containing the climate crises.

The global temperature is expected to rise by 3.5 °C by 2100 according to IPCC(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the future that beholds us doesn’t loo bright.

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