Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environment

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Images from the NASA Earth Observatory show a stark drop in pollution in Wuhan, when comparing NO2 levels in early 2019 (top) and early 2020 (bottom). Pollutant Drops in wuhan china due to virus.png
Images from the NASA Earth Observatory show a stark drop in pollution in Wuhan, when comparing NO2 levels in early 2019 (top) and early 2020 (bottom).

As of November 2021, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic had killed over 5 million people. [2] As a result of the severity of the virus, most countries enacted lockdowns to protect people, mitigate the spread, and ensure space in hospitals. [3] These lockdowns disrupted everyday life worldwide, decreasing the level and frequency of human activity and production. Despite the severity of these circumstances, there were clear positive effects on the environment and climate as a result of human inactivity. As human activity slowed globally (commonly referred to as "anthropause"), a substantial decrease in fossil fuel use, resource consumption, and waste disposal was observed, generating less air and water pollution in many regions of the world. [4] Specifically, there was a sharp and lasting decline in planned air travel and vehicle transportation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In China, lockdowns and other measures resulted in a 25% reduction in carbon emissions, 26% decrease in coal consumption, and a 50% reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions. [4] Earth systems scientist Marshall Burke estimated that two months of pollution reduction likely saved the lives of 77,000 Chinese residents. [5]

Contents

Other positive effects on the environment included governance-system-controlled investments towards a sustainable energy transition and other goals related to environmental protection. One of these investments was the European Union's seven-year €1 trillion budget proposal and €750 billion recovery plan, "Next Generation EU," which seeks to reserve 25% of EU spending for climate-friendly expenditure. [6] [7] [8]

However, decreased human activity during the pandemic diverted attention from illegal activities such as deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and increased poaching in Africa. [9] [10] [11] The hindrance of environmental diplomacy efforts in combination with late capitalism also created economic fallout that some predict will slow investment in green energy technologies. [12] [13] [14]

Another negative side effect of COVID-19 included a global increase of biomedical waste due to hospitals treating a larger than normal number of patients. The extra precautionary disinfection measures required when treating COVID patients played a role in excess medical waste. This required a larger than normal number of masks, gloves, needles, syringes, and medications. [4]

Background

Increasing amounts of greenhouse gases since the beginning of the industrialization era has caused average global temperatures on the Earth to rise at an alarming rate. The effects of global temperature rise include the melting of glaciers, severe storms, increased drought, loss of species, frequent wildfires, a decreasing water supply, and rising sea levels. [15] [16] [17] [18] Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, measures that were expected to be recommended by health authorities in the case of a pandemic included quarantines and social distancing. [19] Simultaneously, researchers predicted that a reduction in economic activity would target the issues created by global warming; it would halt rising temperatures, as well as diminish air and marine pollution, which, as seen before, would result in the restoration of the environment to a flourishing state. [20] COVID-19 forced industries, businesses, and large corporations to shut down. Although the damage caused to humans, the economy, and society was extensive, the environment began to heal from the reduced exploitation of resources. The relationship between human activity and environmental health had been observed in various public health crises in the past, such as the Spanish flu and small pox epidemics, and was observed again, with the COVID-19 pandemic. [21] As humans returned to their pre-COVID lifestyles, researchers and officials called for biodiversity and environmental protections as part of COVID-19 recovery strategies. [22] [23]

Air quality

TROPOMI data shows the NO2 levels in China at the beginning of 2020. Image from Earth Observatory. Nitrogen dioxide Density Change In China Due To Coronavirus.png
TROPOMI data shows the NO2 levels in China at the beginning of 2020. Image from Earth Observatory.
The reduction in motor vehicle traffic has led to a drop in air pollution levels. Inset is the empty A1 motorway in Slovenia on 22 March 2020 Empty motorway due to 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic (A1 motorway, Slovenia).jpg
The reduction in motor vehicle traffic has led to a drop in air pollution levels. Inset is the empty A1 motorway in Slovenia on 22 March 2020

Due to the pandemic's impact on travel and industry, many regions, as well as the planet as a whole, experienced a decrease in air pollution. [24] [25] [26] A reduction in air pollution mitigates both climate change and COVID-19 risks, but it is not yet clear which types of air pollution, if any, are common risks to both. [27] The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air reported that methods to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2, such as quarantines and travel bans, resulted in a 25% reduction of carbon emission in China. [28] [5] In the first month of lockdowns, China produced approximately 200 million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide than the same period in 2019 due to a reduction in air traffic, oil refining, and coal consumption. [5] In this same period, car travel fell by 70% in the UK. [29] One Earth systems scientist estimated that this reduction may have saved at least 77,000 lives. [30] However, Sarah Ladislaw from the Center for Strategic & International Studies argued that reductions in emissions resulting from economic downturns should not be viewed as beneficial, stating that China's attempts to return to previous rates of growth amidst trade wars and supply chain disruptions in the energy market will worsen its environmental impact. [31] Additionally, Nature reported that in 2020, global carbon emissions only fell by 6.4%. [32] Between 1 January and 11 March 2020, the European Space Agency observed a marked decline in nitrous oxide emissions from cars, power plants, and factories in the Po Valley region in northern Italy, coinciding with lockdowns in the region. [33] Throughout areas in North India such as Jalandhar, the Himalayas became visible again for the first time in decades, as the drop in pollution triggered air quality improvement. [34] [35]

NOx emission changes in East China NOx emission changes in East China.jpg
NOx emission changes in East China

During the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA and the ESA monitored the significant decrease in nitrogen dioxide gases in China. The economic slowdown from the virus drastically reduced pollution levels, especially in cities like Wuhan, China by 25-40%. [24] [36] [37] NASA uses an ozone monitoring instrument (OMI) to analyze and observe the ozone layer as well as pollutants such as NO2, aerosols, and other chemicals. This instrument helped NASA to process and interpret the data coming in due to the lock-downs worldwide. [38] According to NASA scientists, the drop in NO2 pollution began in Wuhan, China and slowly spread to the rest of the world. The drop occurred drastically because the emergence of the virus coincided with the same time of year as the lunar year celebrations in China. [24] During this festival, factories and businesses were closed for the last week of January to celebrate the lunar year festival. [39] The drop in NO2 in China did not achieve an air quality of the standard considered acceptable by health authorities. Other pollutants in the air such as aerosol emissions remained. [40]

Joint research led by scientists from China and the U.S. estimated that nitrogen oxides (NOx=NO+NO2) emissions decreased by 50% in East China from 23 January (Wuhan lockdown) to 9 February 2020 in comparison to the period from 1 to 22 January 2020. [24] Emissions then increased by 26% from 10 February (back-to-work day) to 12 March 2020, indicating possible increasing socioeconomic activities after most provinces allowed businesses to open. [24] It is yet to be investigated what COVID-19 control measures are most efficient controlling virus spread and least socioeconomic impact. [24]

According to the World Health Organization, more than 80% of individuals living in cities are exposed to dangerous air pollution, which has been associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 problems and mortality. [41] [42] [43] [44]

The changes in air pollution have also affected water quality since the start of the pandemic. Air quality and surface water quality have a close connection; however, the impact on water systems is still unclear. Factors such as characteristics of the soil and urbanization in the area can affect the water quality. This suggests that improvements due to COVID-19 may be temporary, however there have been notable decreases in pollutants in various water systems. [45]

Water quality

Oregon State University researchers testing wastewater for the virus that causes COVID-19 COVID-19 wastewater testing.jpg
Oregon State University researchers testing wastewater for the virus that causes COVID-19

Atmosphere's impact on water quality

The vast reduction of nitrous oxides in the atmosphere was seen far from the industrial borders of China. The metropolitan centers of New York, Paris, and London recorded 40% declines in nitrous oxide in the first two weeks of Spring 2020 in comparison to the prior year. In March 2020, Los Angeles (notorious for both traffic and smog) saw a 20% increase in air quality due to the quarantine. [46] In the San Francisco Bay Area, traffic was down 45%, leading to a stark contrast in carbon dioxide emissions compared to previous years. [47] In the atmosphere, water particles mix with carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. The result of this mixing is acid rain. The acid rain can fall into rivers and lakes, which in turn, will harm aquatic life. As a result, acid rain affects life on land and in the water. [48] Researchers have noted an interconnected relationship between the quality of the air and the cleanliness of water. These strong correlations between the simultaneous improvement in air and water quality were witnessed during the pandemic. [46]

United States

The onset of COVID-19 in the United States improved air quality. [46] [47] The improvement in air quality led to improvements in water quality. For example, in the San Francisco Bay, notable reductions in water pollution were observed. Experts have attributed the reduction of water particulates to the absence of traffic due to the pandemic. Additionally, studies about the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and atmospheric NO2 concentration levels in New York City revealed that air quality significantly improved during the pandemic. This information suggested that improved air quality in New York City was a result of the correlation between air and water quality. [49]

In April 2020, Oregon State University launched a public health project named TRACE-COVID-19, which performed over 60,000 individual tests and 3,000 wastewater tests throughout Oregon communities. The purpose of the project was to determine the community prevalence of COVID-19 and ultimately aimed to both lower the risk and slow the spread of the virus. The data collected from the TRACE program was used to help officials decide what public health actions they should take. [50]

A study in Massachusetts found that between March 27 and May 14, 2020 car travel reduced by 71% and truck traffic reduced by 46%. The significant decrease in traffic correlated with a direct reduction in atmospheric levels of harmful particulates from vehicular emission, resulting in a decrease in overall air pollution. The atmospheric particulate reductions led to an improvement in water quality. [51]

Peru

The Peruvian jungle experienced 14 oil spills from the beginning of the pandemic through early October 2020. Of these, eight spills were in a single sector (Block 192) operated by Frontera Energy del Perú S.A. which ceased operations during the pandemic and failed to maintain its wells and pipes. The oil seeped into the ground where it contaminated the drinking water of the Indigenous people in Quichua territory. [52] Oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon have been a problem for decades, leaking toxic metals and hydrocarbons into the drinking water and surrounding environment. [53] A 2016 study done on 1,168 people living near Block 192 indicated that 50% of those tested had toxic metals (lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium) in their blood at levels above WHO acceptable limits. As a result of these oil spills, the Quichua people of Nueva Andoas were at a particularly high risk for diseases before the pandemic. Further compounded by a lack of medicine, lack of doctors, lack of access to vaccines, and poor government response, the Indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon were in an extremely vulnerable position and at high risk during the pandemic. [52]

Italy

Images taken from a satellite of Venice's water canals during April of 2019 and 2020. Deserted Venetian lagoon.jpg
Images taken from a satellite of Venice's water canals during April of 2019 and 2020.

In Venice, shortly after quarantine began (March 2020), water in the canals cleared and experienced greater water flow. [54] The increase in water quality was primarily caused by a decrease in turbidity due to a reduction in boat traffic which stirs up sediment. [55] In the year prior, during the initial onset of the coronavirus, organizations such as the European Space Agency detected the striking change between the water in the Venetian canals as the country became more and more contaminated. [56] Two satellite images, one taken on April 19, 2019 and the other on April 13, 2020, showed the water in the canals transitions from a paler, teal coloration to a deeper blue. This showed the increase in the health of the water as the coronavirus set in across the country. [57] Through this Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, the space agency's images captured the benefit of less transportive travel on Venice's waterways and highlighted that, despite the decline in tourists as the city shut down, the canals contained water far cleaner and safer for organisms and consumption than was the case previously. [58] While the water in the Venetian canals cleared up due to the decrease in boat transportation and pollution, marine life returned to the area in far less numbers than previously believed. Although numerous social media posts depicted dolphins and other oceanic creatures venturing back to Venice's shores, National Geographic exposed the falsities behind these rumors, showing images captured in different places and debunking the hopes circulating around that the impact of COVID-19 contributed to healthier waters and a re-emergence of wildlife. [59] Misinformation such as the claims made about animals infiltrating Venice's waterways have given people a distorted image of both the ongoing pandemic and climate change crises, concealing growing problems such as the city's current low tides. [60]

India

In India, more than 28 million people were affected by the rapid transmission of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, the Government of India put the whole country on a full lockdown. While many suffered under these circumstances, both socially and financially, environmental researchers discovered significant improvements to environmental quality during the slow in human activity and travel. In a "metadata analysis of river water quality (RWQ)," the tests indicated that the rivers in Damodar, an "urban-industrial" area, had improved in quality. There was a reduction in pollution that led to this improvement in water quality. [61] A second study conducted on the Damodar in January 2021 revealed a significant change of the water quality during the pandemic. In the pre-lockdown period, the Water Pollution Index (WPI) of samples from the river fell between 1.59 to 2.46, indicating a high level of pollution. In contrast, during the lockdown, the WPI for water samples ranged from 0.52 to 0.78, indicating that samples were either ‘good' or ‘moderately polluted' water. The significant improvement in the WPI suggested that the shutdowns of heavy industries and subsequent reduction of toxic pollutants led to an increase in water quality. [62] Similar to the river Damodar, the Ganga experienced significant improvements with regards to water quality. Specifically, DO levels increased, while BOD and nitrate concentrations decreased. The nationwide lockdown and subsequent shutdown of major industries not only increased river quality, but the quality of polluted creeks. In some regions, waste inflow was reduced up to 50%. [63] Both studies point to a significant improvement in water quality as a result of India's complete lockdown. The changes were a result of a decrease in sewage and wastewater being discharged into the rivers. This was most likely because of Damodar's specific location in an industrial area. [61] The industrial area experienced extremely different levels of activity as a result of the lockdown, so the results of the water quality tests from before the pandemic and after were affected by the different levels of activity. [63] In addition to the studies mentioned above, another study was done on Vembanad Lake, the longest lake in India. The suspended particulate matter concentration decreased by about 16% during lockdown compared to before lockdown. [64]

China

As the first country affected by the pandemic, China had to quickly adapt new health and safety restrictions before any other nation in January 2020. [65] Similar to other countries, numerous large industries in China shutdown during the COVID-19 lockdown. As a result, the water quality significantly improved. Results from monthly field measurements on river water quality in China showed improvements for several different indicators. Ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) was the first indicator to rapidly reduce after the lockdown, while dissolved oxygen (DO) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) started to show improvements in early-February 2020. The pH levels of the river water started to increase in late-March 2020. After the lockdown was lifted, a study conducted by scientists, Dong Liua, Hong Yang, and Julian R. Thompson, found that all water quality parameters returned to normal conditions. Because the conditions improved during a temporary lockdown period, this study suggested that future pollutant reduction strategies should be location-specific and sustained in order to maintain progress to protect the environment. [65]

South Africa

During the pandemic, developing countries in Africa didn't have the infrastructure, equipment, facilities, and trained staff to do widespread tests for COVID-19, so they used wastewater surveillance as a way to highlight hotspot areas, especially in the country of South Africa. This allowed them to discover where SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA existed in different wastewater after testing municipal wastewater (industrial wastewater), surface water (rivers, canals, dams), and drinking water. Traces of SARS-CoV-2 RNA were found in wastewater treatment facilities in the first phases of treatment, but once the water was treated there was no RNA detected. While the treated water was safe for drinking and other uses, the wastewater from the treatment facilities that drained into rivers or seas could still have some SARS-CoV-2 RNA, but it was too low to be detected which proved it to be unlikely. No other water source had detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA which led scientists of this experiment to see no prominent harm done from the pandemic on the water quality in South Africa. [66]

Morocco

The COVID-19 lockdown had a positive effect for the water quality of the Boukhalef River in northern Morocco. Researchers used Sentinel 3 water surface temperature (WST) values to test several locations along the Boukhalef River before and after the lockdown. Before the lockdown there were high WST values indicating poor water quality at these sites. However, after the lockdown, industrial activities greatly reduced their production and subsequent polluting of the water. As a result, there were normal WST values indicating normal water quality in the same sites. [67]

England

A study of water use using the CityWat-SemiDistributed (CWSD) system analyzed how the lockdown during COVID-19 affected the water supply in England. Increases in household water consumption were attributed to increased use of appliances and preventative measures such as hand washing during lockdowns. [68] A decrease in activity outside of the home was associated with a 35% increase in water use. [69] As in other countries, England saw a decrease in transportation, such as daily commuting, in large cities, the result of which was a change in pollution concentration zones. Additionally, the rivers in London became less polluted, but water quality became worse near peoples' households. This minimized the continued pollution of larger rivers, but instead increased the pollution in smaller ones in suburban areas. [70]

Ecuador

During the pandemic, surveys were distributed and data was collected in Ecuador to study the water quality of the ocean. Preliminary data suggested that the water appeared clearer and cleaner because of the lack of people swimming and visiting the beaches. Residents of the Salinas beach were surveyed on the quality of the water twice, 10 weeks apart, during quarantine. Using a 1-5 scale, with 1 being the worst quality and 5 being the best, participants said that during the 10 weeks, the quality went from a 2.83 to a 4.33. Off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands also saw improvements in water quality during the pandemic. Researchers noticed the presence of more turtles, sea lions and sharks in the water because of the lack of pollution. [71]

Unfortunately, sanitary water conditions became a concern in Ecuador during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was thought that SARS-CoV-2 could be contracted through fecal matter in wastewater treatment plants throughout the world. In the case of Ecuador, less than 20% of its wastewater is treated before being discharged into bodies of water. The urban area of Quito, Ecuador was particularly affected by the lack of wastewater treatment. Its population of 3 million citizens was affected by its lack of water sanitation which resulted in an under-diagnosed demographic. At the time of testing, reports claimed that only 750 citizens were infected with COVID-19, but the actual wastewater contamination showed a larger percentage of the population infected. Due to improper wastewater management, COVID-19 infected Ecuador's citizens through water contamination. [72]

Nepal

The Bagmati River passes through the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, and with its tributaries, comprises a water basin that spans the Kathmandu valley. A July 2021 study revealed the Bagmati River basin saw considerable improvements in water quality during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reduced human activity caused a decrease in biological oxygen demand, an important indicator of bacteria levels in water, by 1.5 times the level before lockdowns were implemented. [73]

Egypt

A reduction in human activities due to COVID-19 mitigation measures resulted in less industrial wastewater dumping in the Nile River, the Nile's canals and tributaries, the Nile Delta, and several lakes in Egypt. Additionally, fewer tourist ships sailed the Nile, thereby minimizing the frequency of oil and gas spills. A decrease in shipping traffic through the Suez Canal also helped improve its water quality. Similar reductions in wastewater dumping and shipping traffic contributed to improving the quality of Egypt's coastal Mediterranean waters as well. [74] After the onset of the pandemic, residents in Egyptian villages needed to purify their own water. The Zawyat Al-Na’ura village, for example, used ultraviolet rays as a water purification technique. [75]

Water demand

Water demand was impacted by the pandemic in many ways. Practicing good hygiene was one of the main protocols used to combat the pandemic. Frequent hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds, disinfecting surfaces, and cleaning food containers as they came into the home, increased the demand for water. [76]

Residential areas

Water demand increased in residential areas due to mandated lockdowns that kept people home. For example, home water use in Portsmouth, England increased by 15%, while non-residential use decreased by 17%. The increased water usage at home led to higher residential water bills, exacerbating financial stress to those impacted by the stay-at-home lockdowns mandated by the pandemic. [45]

Desert-like areas

While some regions benefitting from lockdowns, water scarce regions severely suffered. For example, in Nevada, there was a 13.1% water usage increase within the first month of quarantine. Despite this increase in household water usage, businesses were using substantially less water. Furthermore, water usage at academic institutions declined by 66.2%. Cumulatively in all water sectors, during the first month of quarantine, there was a 3.3% uptick in overall water usage. Consequently, there were efforts to restrict household water usage because of the region's already scarce water supply. These measures included water rations and other limitations put on citizens for their water use such as, watering the grass. [77]

Industrial sector

Numerous public buildings were shutdown for significant amounts of time during the pandemic. The results of these shut downs were water quality issues such as mold in standing water in pipes and leaching. These became of concern as non-residential demand increased back to normal levels when the shut downs ended. The effects varied depending on the makeup of the non-residential sectors, however as a whole changes in water demand were seen. The changes in water demand also had notable impacts on water utilities. Utilities experienced significant revenue losses as total water usage dropped in many areas, and simultaneously multitudes of water bills went unpaid while businesses and non-commercial customers struggled financially. Some companies offered overtime and hazard pay to their employees as their work became increasingly essential, which led to increased operational costs. [45] Industries that were part of the water supply chain experienced revenue losses as the industrial water demand declined. [78]

Underdeveloped countries

In areas already facing barriers to water access across the globe, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Yemen, the pandemic exacerbated challenges. [79] [80] Additionally, preexisting inequalities relating to infrastructure and water access were likely a factor contributing to disparate impacts of the pandemic. [81] The World Health Organization and UNICEF strongly recommend sanitary hand washing facilities to be the bare minimum for fighting COVID-19 and suggested that lack of access to these necessary facilities (for over 74 million people in the Arab regions) was responsible for putting people at very high risk of contracting COVID-19. [82]

In some undeveloped countries, water utilities have worked with governments to temporarily suspend billing for vulnerable groups. This was an effort to mitigate the impact of using extra water during the pandemic while people were out of work. The implementation of this process caused a huge loss in revenue for water companies. [78]

Wildlife

Fish prices and demand for fish have decreased due to the pandemic, and fishing fleets around the world sit mostly idle. [83] [84] German scientist Rainer Froese has said the fish biomass will increase due to the sharp decline in fishing, and projected that in European waters, some fish, such as herring, could double their biomass. [83] As of April 2020, signs of aquatic recovery remain mostly anecdotal. [85]

As people stayed at home due to lockdown and travel restrictions, some animals have been spotted in cities. Sea turtles were spotted laying eggs on beaches they once avoided (such as the coast of the Bay of Bengal), due to the lowered levels of human interference and light pollution. [86] In the United States, fatal vehicle collisions with animals such as deer, elk, moose, bears, mountain lions fell by 58% during March and April. [87]

Conservationists expect that African countries will experience a massive surge in bush meat poaching. Matt Brown of the Nature Conservancy said that "When people don't have any other alternative for income, our prediction -- and we're seeing this in South Africa -- is that poaching will go up for high-value products like rhino horn and ivory." [9] [10] On the other hand, Gabon decided to ban the human consumption of bats and pangolins, to stem the spread of zoonotic diseases, as SARS-CoV-2 was thought to have transmitted itself to humans through these animals. [88] Pangolins are no longer thought to have transmitted SARS-CoV-2. [89] In June 2020, Myanmar allowed breeding of endangered animals such as tigers, pangolins, and elephants. Experts fear that the Southeast Asian country's attempts to deregulate wildlife hunting and breeding may create "a New Covid-19." [90]

Deforestation and reforestation

Due to the sharp decrease in job opportunities during the pandemic, many unemployed individuals were hired to help illegal deforestation operations throughout the world, specifically in the tropics. According to the deforestation alerts from Global Land Analysis & Discovery (GLAD), a total of 9583 km2 of deforested lands were detected across the global tropics during the first month following the establishment of COVID-19 precautions, which was approximately two times that seen the year before, in 2019 (4732 km2). [91] The disruption from the pandemic provided cover for illegal deforestation operations in Brazil, which were at a 9-year high. [92] Satellite imagery showed deforestation of the Amazon rainforest surging by over 50% compared to baseline levels. [11] [13] Conversely, unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic facilitated the recruitment of laborers for Pakistan's 10 Billion Tree Tsunami campaign to plant 10 billion trees – the estimated global annual net loss of trees – over the span of 5 years. [93] [94] [95] Because the pandemic saw many authorities unemployed, poaching became much more popular during 2020 and 2021. In Columbia, illegal activities and wildfires were the two biggest factors contributing to the further destruction of the rainforests. [92]

Deforestation has an impact on clean drinking water. One study showed that a 1% increase in deforestation decreases access to clean drinking water by 0.93%. Deforestation lowers water quality because it lowers the soil infiltration of water which causes a higher level of turbidity in the water. In countries that are not able to pay for drinking water treatment this poses a significant issue. [96]

Carbon emissions

Change in global daily fossil CO2 emissions, % during the COVID-19 pandemic. Change in global daily fossil CO2 emissions, %25 during the COVID-19 pandemic.jpg
Change in global daily fossil CO₂ emissions, % during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Daily CO2 emissions by 6 sectors in 2019 and first half of 2020 Global daily CO2 emissions for sectors.webp
Daily CO₂ emissions by 6 sectors in 2019 and first half of 2020
Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on daily CO2 emissions globally and in 11 nations Daily CO2 emissions for countries.webp
Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on daily CO₂ emissions globally and in 11 nations

A study published in May 2020 found that the daily global carbon emissions during the lockdown measures in early April fell by 17%, and could lead to a decline of annual carbon emissions by 7%, which would be the biggest drop since World War II according to the researchers. [98] They ascribe these decreases mainly to the reduction of transportation usage and industrial activities. [99] [100] However, it has been noted that rebounding could diminish reductions due to the more limited industrial activities. [101] Nevertheless, societal shifts caused by the COVID-19 lockdowns – like widespread telecommuting, adoption of remote work policies, [102] [103] and the use of virtual conference technology – may have a more sustained impact beyond the short-term reduction of transportation usage. [101] [104] In a study published in September 2020, scientists estimate that such behavioral changes developed during confinement may reduce 15% of all transportation CO₂ emissions permanently. [105]

Despite this, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was the highest ever recorded in human history in May 2020. [106] Energy and climate expert Constantine Samaras states that "a pandemic is the worst possible way to reduce emissions" and that "technological, behavioral, and structural change is the best and only way to reduce emissions". [106] Tsinghua University's Zhu Liu clarifies that "only when we would reduce our emissions even more than this for longer would we be able to see the decline in concentrations in the atmosphere". [106] The world's demand for fossil fuels has decreased by almost 10% amid COVID-19 measures and reportedly many energy economists believe it may not recover from the crisis. [107]

Impact on climate

In a study published in August 2020, scientists estimated that global NOx emissions declined by as much as 30% in April but were offset by ~20% reduction in global SO₂ emissions that weakens the cooling effect and conclude that the direct effect of the response to the pandemic on global warming will likely be negligible, with an estimated cooling of around 0.01 ± 0.005 °C by 2030 compared to a baseline scenario but that indirect effects due to an economic recovery tailored towards stimulating a green economy, such as by reducing fossil fuel investments, could avoid future warming of 0.3 °C by 2050. [108] [109] The study indicates that systemic change in how humanity powers and feeds itself is required for a substantial impact on global warming. [108]

In October 2020 scientists reported, based on near-real-time activity data, an 'unprecedented' abrupt 8.8% decrease in global CO₂ emissions in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, larger than during previous economic downturns and World War II. Authors note that such decreases of human activities "cannot be the answer" and that structural and transformational changes in human economic management and behaviour systems are needed. [110] [97]

In January 2021 scientists reported that reductions in air pollution due to worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 were larger than previously estimated. It was concluded that, because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the climate during that year, a slight warming of Earth's climate during the year was seen instead of a slight cooling. Climate models were used to identify small impacts that could not be discerned with observations. The study's lead author noted that aerosol emissions have major health ramifications and can't be part of a viable approach for mitigating global warming. [98] [111] [112]

Fossil fuel industry

A report by the London-based think tank Carbon Tracker concludes that the COVID-19 pandemic may have pushed the fossil fuel industry into "terminal decline" as demand for oil and gas decreases while governments aim to accelerate the clean energy transition. It predicts that an annual 2% decline in demand for fossil fuels could cause the future profits of oil, gas and coal companies to collapse from an estimated $39tn to $14tn. [113] [107] However, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance more than half a trillion dollars worldwide are currently intended to be poured into high-carbon industries. [114] Preliminary disclosures from the Bank of England's Covid Corporate Financing Facility indicate that billions of pounds of taxpayer support are intended to be funneled to fossil fuel companies. [114] According to Reclaim Finance the European Central Bank intends to allocate as much as €220bn (£193bn) to fossil fuel industries. [114] An assessment by Ernst & Young finds that a stimulus program that focuses on renewable energy and climate-friendly projects could create more than 100,000 direct jobs across Australia and estimates that every $1m spent on renewable energy and exports creates 4.8 full-time jobs in renewable infrastructure while $1m on fossil fuel projects would only create 1.7 full-time jobs. [115]

In addition, also due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fossil fuel and petrochemical industry, natural gas prices have dropped so low that gas producers were burning it off on-site (not being worth the cost to transport it to cracking facilities). Bans on single-use consumer plastic (in China, the European Union, Canada, and many countries in Africa), and bans on plastic bags (in several states in the USA) have also reduced demand for plastics considerably. Many cracking facilities in the USA have been suspended. The petrochemical industry has been trying to save itself by attempting to rapidly expand demand for plastic products worldwide (i.e. through pushbacks on plastic bans and by increasing the number of products wrapped in plastic in countries where plastic use is not already as widespread (i.e. developing nations)). [116]

Cycling

During the pandemic, many people started cycling, [117] causing bike sales to surge. [118] [119] [120] [121] [122] Many cities set up semi-permanent "pop-up bike lanes" to provide people who switched from public transit to bicycles with more room. Many individuals chose cycling due to a heightened anxiety over public transportation. This was because public transportation could be crowded at times, raising the fear that one may catch COVID-19. Additionally, exercise became more popular during the pandemic, since lockdowns led to mass unemployment. These reasons led to a "bike boom". [123] [124] [125] [126] [127] In Berlin, proposals exist to make the initially reversible changes permanent. [128] [129] [130] [131] [132]

Retail and food production

Food production

Small-scale farmers have been embracing digital technologies as a way to directly sell produce, and community-supported agriculture and direct-sell delivery systems are on the rise. [133] These methods have benefited smaller online grocery stores which predominantly sell organic and more local food and can have a positive environmental impact due to consumers who prefer to receive deliveries rather than travel to the store by car. [134] Online grocery shopping has grown substantially during the pandemic. [135]

While carbon emissions dropped during the pandemic, methane emissions from livestock continued to rise. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. [136]

Retail

Due to lockdowns and COVID-19 protocols, many consumers switched to online shopping during the pandemic, which resulted in a 32% increase in e-commerce. This caused an increase in packaging waste. [137] Many online purchases were for essential items; however 45% of shoppers made non-essential purchases, such as clothing. There remains an ongoing debate about whether online shopping was more environmentally friendly than shopping in stores, and currently there is no conclusion as to which is best. Both online and in-person shopping had aspects that helped and hurt the environment. For example, shipping products to individual consumers could equally as detrimental to the environment as powering a brick and mortar shop. Another factor to consider was that 20% of online returns ended up in landfills because they could not be resold as new merchandise. [138]

Litter

Surgical mask abandoned at the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau in December 2020 2020-12-30 17-08-37 - Fontainebleau - Masque chirurgical.jpg
Surgical mask abandoned at the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau in December 2020

These calculations only pertained to healthcare workers, not including mask usage by the general public. Theoretically, if every health care worker in the United States wore a new N95 mask for every patient they encountered, the total number of masks required would be approximately 7.4 billion, at a cost of $6.4 billion. This would lead to 84 million kilograms of waste. However, the same study also found that decontaminating regular N95 masks, thereby making the masks reusable, dropped environmental waste by 75% and fully reusable silicone N95 masks could offer an even greater reduction in waste. [139] A study in Africa estimated that over 12 billion face masks (105,000 tons) were discarded into the environment per month during the pandemic. [140]

In addition to the increased need for PPE, the demand for single-use plastics has been exacerbated. In the first 18 months of the pandemic, approximately 8 million tons of waste had been accumulated. A significant portion originated from the developing world, and 72% of this waste was from Asia. This surplus of waste was particularly concerning for the oceans and was largely founded on beaches (or more generally, near the coast). [141]

Specifically, in Kenya, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the amount of marine debris found on beaches with around 55.1% being a pandemic-related trash items. Although the pandemic-related trash had shown up along the beaches of Kenya, it had not made its way into the water. The reduction of litter in the ocean could be a result of the closing of beaches and lack of movement during the pandemic, so less trash was likely to end up in the ocean. [142]

Additionally, the increase of plastic waste during the pandemic became a major environmental concern. The increased demand for single-use plastics expedited the already detrimental problem. Most of the recent plastic found in the oceans was generated from hospitals, shipping packages and from personal protection equipment. This waste was mainly accumulated on beaches and coastal sediments and was harming the oceans and their wildlife. [143]

Additional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were seen in Hong Kong, where disposable masks ended up along the beaches of Soko’s islands. [144] This could be attributed to the increased production of medical products (masks and gloves) during the pandemic, which lead to a rise in unconventional disposal of these products. [145]

According to a study conducted by MIT, the effects of the pandemic are estimated to generate up to 7,200 tons of medical waste every day, much of which are disposable masks. The data was collected during the first six months of the pandemic (late March 2020 to late September 2020) in the United States. These calculations only pertained to healthcare workers, not including mask usage by the general public. Theoretically, if every health care worker in the United States wore a new N95 mask for every patient they encountered, the total number of masks required would be approximately 7.4 billion, at a cost of $6.4 billion. This would lead to 84 million kilograms of waste. However, the same study also found that decontaminating regular N95 masks, thereby making the masks reusable, drops environmental waste by 75% and fully reusable silicone N95 masks could offer an even greater reduction in waste. [139] Another study estimated "that over 12 billion medical and fabric face masks are discarded monthly, giving the likelihood that an equivalent of about 105,000 tonnes of face masks per month could be disposed into the environment" in Africa alone. [146]

Investments and other economic measures

European Investment Bank Investment Survey 2020 Firms that plan to cut investment as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.png
European Investment Bank Investment Survey 2020

Some have noted that planned stimulus package could be designed to speed up renewable energy transitions and to boost energy resilience. [101] Researchers of the World Resources Institute have outlined a number of reasons for investments in public transport as well as cycling and walking during and after the pandemic. [149] Use of public transport in cities worldwide has fallen by 50-90%, with substantial loss of revenue losses for operators. Investments such as in heightened hygienic practices on public transport and in appropriate social distancing measures may address public health concerns about public transport usage. [150] The International Energy Agency states that support from governments due to the pandemic could drive rapid growth in battery and hydrogen technology, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and has illustrated the vulnerability of fossil fuels to storage and distribution problems. [151] [152] [153]

According to a study published in August 2020, an economic recovery "tilted towards green stimulus and reductions in fossil fuel investments" could avoid future warming of 0.3 °C by 2050. [109]

Secretary-general of the OECD club of rich countries José Ángel Gurría, called upon countries to "seize this opportunity [of the COVID-19 recovery] to reform subsidies and use public funds in a way that best benefits people and the planet". [114]

In March 2020, the ECB announced the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme. [154] Reclaim Finance said that the Governing Council failed to integrate climate into both the “business as usual” monetary policy and the crisis response. It also ignored the call from 45 NGO's that demanded that the ECB deliver a profound shift on climate integration at this decision-making meeting. [155] This, as it also finances 38 fossil fuel companies, including 10 active in coal and 4 in shale oil and gas. [156] Greenpeace stated that (by June 2020) the ECB's covid-related asset purchases already funded the fossil fuel sector by to up to 7.6 billion. [157]

The report, Are We Building Back Better?, from the Oxford University’s Global Recovery Observatory, found that of the $14.6tn spending announced by the world’s largest 50 countries in 2020, $1.9tn (13%) was directed to long-term ‘recovery-type’ measures, and $341bn (18%) of long-term spending was for green initiatives. [158]

With the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak spreading rapidly within the European Union, the focus on the European Green Deal diminished. Some have suggested either a yearly pause or even a complete discontinuation of the deal. Many believe the current main focus of the European Union's current policymaking process should be the immediate, shorter-term crisis rather than climate change. [159] In May 2020 the €750 billion European recovery package, called Next Generation EU, [160] [161] and the €1 trillion budget were announced. The European Green deal is part of it. One of the package's principles is "Do no harm". The money will be spent only on projects that meet some green criteria. 25% of all funding will go to climate change mitigation. Fossil fuels and nuclear power are excluded from the funding. [6]

In 2021, Joe Biden announced the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on March 11, 2021. [162] He also announced the Build Back Better Plan.

Some sources of revenue for environmental projects – such as indigenous communities monitoring rainforests and conservation projects – diminished due to the pandemic. [163]

Despite a temporary decline in global carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency warned that the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may prevent or delay companies and others from investing in green energy. [14] [164] [165] Others cautioned that large corporations and the wealthy could exploit the crisis for economic gain in line with the Shock Doctrine, as has occurred after past pandemics. [166]

The Earth Overshoot Day took place more than three weeks later than 2019, due to COVID-19 induced lockdowns around the world. [167] The president of the Global Footprint Network claims that the pandemic by itself is one of the manifestations of "ecological imbalance." [167] [168]

Analysis and recommendations

Multiple organizations and organization-coalitions – such as think tanks, companies, business organizations, political bodies and research institutes – have created unilateral analyses and recommendations for investments and related measures for sustainability-oriented socioeconomic recovery from the pandemic on global and national levels – including the International Energy Agency, [169] [150] the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and Environment [170] and the European Commission. [171] [172] [173] [174] [175] The United Nations' Secretary General António Guterres recommended six broad sustainability-related principles for shaping the recovery. [176]

According to a report commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy and published in July 2020, investment in four key ocean intervention areas could help aid economic recovery and yield high returns on investment in terms of economic, environmental and health benefits. According to Jackie Savitz, chief policy officer for America ocean conservation nonprofit Oceana, strategies such as "setting science-based limits on fishing so that stocks can recover, practicing selective fishing to protect endangered species and ensuring that fishing gear doesn't destroy ocean habitats are all effective, cost-efficient ways to manage sustainable fisheries". [177]

Politics

The pandemic has also impacted environmental policy and climate diplomacy, as the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference was postponed to 2021 in response to the pandemic after its venue was converted to a field hospital. This conference was crucial as nations were scheduled to submit enhanced nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement. The pandemic also limits the ability of nations, particularly developing nations with low state capacity, to submit nationally determined contributions, as they focus on the pandemic. [12]

Time highlighted three possible risks: that preparations for the November 2020 Glasgow conference planned to follow the 2015 Paris Agreement were disrupted; that the public would see global warming as a lower priority issue than the pandemic, weakening the pressure on politicians; and that a desire to "restart" the global economy would cause an excess in extra greenhouse gas production. However, the drop in oil prices during the COVID-19 recession could be a good opportunity to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies, according to the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency. [178]

Carbon Tracker argues that China should not stimulate the economy by building planned coal-fired power stations, because many would have negative cashflow and would become stranded assets. [179]

The United States' Trump administration suspended the enforcement of some environmental protection laws via the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the pandemic. This allows polluters to ignore some environmental laws if they can claim that these violations were caused by the pandemic. [180]

Predicted rebound effect

The restarting of greenhouse-gas producing industries and transport following the COVID-19 lockdowns was hypothesized as an event that would contribute to increasing greenhouse gas production rather than reducing it. [181] In the transport sector, the pandemic could trigger several effects, including behavioral changes – such as more teleworking and teleconferencing and changes in business models – which could, in turn, translate in reductions of emissions from transport. A scientific study published in September 2020 estimates that sustaining such behavioral changes could abate 15% of all transport emissions with limited impacts on societal well-being. [105] On the other hand, there could be a shift away from public transport, driven by fear of contagion, and reliance on single-occupancy cars, which would significantly increase emissions. [182] However, city planners are also creating new cycle paths in some cities during the pandemic. [183] In June 2020, it was reported that carbon dioxide emissions were rebounding quickly. [184]

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recommends governments continue to enforce existing air pollution regulations after the COVID-19 crisis, and channel financial support measures to public transport providers to enhance capacity and quality with a focus on reducing crowding and promoting cleaner facilities. [182]

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, states that "the next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond" and that "if we do not [take action] we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages." [172]

Psychology and risk perception

The pandemic has changed people's views on the challenges facing their countries, as found in the European Investment Bank's climate survey 2020 - 2021. Climate change and COVID-19. The crisis has changed people's views on the challenges facing their countries.svg
The pandemic has changed people's views on the challenges facing their countries, as found in the European Investment Bank's climate survey 2020 - 2021.

Chaos and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may have made a catastrophic future seem less remote and action to prevent it more necessary and reasonable. However, it may also have the opposite effect by having minds focus on more immediate issues of the pandemic rather than larger issues concerning the ecosystem such as deforestation. [186]

These temporary improvements caused by human inactivity do not mean that the climate problem is improving and climate saving methods need to be postponed. Several international climate change conventions have been postponed and in some cases not rescheduled because of these improvements. Some notable examples of this were the postponement of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the World Conservation Congress, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the U.N. Ocean Conference. [187] All these conferences and committees were created so nations round the world could have concrete plans to ensure the climate's safety for future generations. Though the climate improvements made during the lockdown provide hope for the future, as humans return to normal activity these changes will prove to be temporary. Governments around the world need to continue to prioritize long term climate saving methods to truly make a difference in the grim forecast of life on Earth.

Impact on environmental monitoring and prediction

Weather forecasts

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) announced that a worldwide reduction in aircraft flights due to the pandemic could impact the accuracy of weather forecasts, citing commercial airlines' use of Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) as an integral contribution to weather forecast accuracy. The ECMWF predicted that AMDAR coverage would decrease by 65% or more due to the drop in commercial flights. [188]

Seismic noise reduction

Seismologists have reported that quarantine, lockdown, and other measures to mitigate COVID-19 have resulted in a mean global high-frequency seismic noise reduction of up to 50%. This study reports that the noise reduction resulted from a combination of factors including reduced traffic/transport, lower industrial activity, and weaker economic activity. The reduction in seismic noise was observed at both remote seismic monitoring stations and at borehole sensors installed several hundred metres below the ground. The study states that the reduced noise level may allow for better monitoring and detection of natural seismic sources, such as earthquakes and volcanic activity. [189]

Noise pollution has been shown to negatively affect both humans and invertebrates. The WHO suggests that 100 million people in Europe are negatively affected by unwanted noise daily, resulting in hearing loss, cardiovascular disorders, loss of sleep, and negative psychological effects. During the pandemic, however, government enforced travel mandates lowered car and plane movements resulting in significant reduction in noise pollution. [190]

See also

Related Research Articles

Environmental finance is a field within finance that employs market-based environmental policy instruments to improve the ecological impact of investment strategies. The primary objective of environmental finance is to regress the negative impacts of climate change through pricing and trading schemes. The field of environmental finance was established in response to the poor management of economic crises by government bodies globally. Environmental finance aims to reallocate a businesses resources to improve the sustainability of investments whilst also retaining profit margins.

Environmental engineering Integration of sciences and engineering principles to improve the natural environment for life

Environmental engineering is a professional engineering discipline that encompasses broad scientific topics like chemistry, biology, ecology, geology, hydraulics, hydrology, microbiology, and mathematics to create solutions that will protect and also improve the health of living organisms and improve the quality of the environment. Environmental engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering and chemical engineering.

Infrastructure Facilities and systems serving society

Infrastructure is the set of fundamental facilities and systems that support the sustainable functionality of households and firms. Serving a country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function. Infrastructure is composed of public and private physical structures such as roads, railways, bridges, tunnels, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, and telecommunications. In general, infrastructure has been defined as "the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions" and maintain the surrounding environment.

Sustainable energy

Energy is sustainable if it "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Most definitions of sustainable energy include considerations of environmental aspects such as greenhouse gas emissions and social and economic aspects such as energy poverty. Renewable energy sources such as wind, hydroelectric power, solar, and geothermal energy are generally far more sustainable than fossil fuel sources. However, some renewable energy projects, such as the clearing of forests to produce biofuels, can cause severe environmental damage. The role of non-renewable energy sources in sustainable energy has been controversial. Nuclear power is a low-carbon source whose historic mortality rates are comparable to wind and solar, but its sustainability has been debated because of concerns about radioactive waste, nuclear proliferation, and accidents. Switching from coal to natural gas has environmental benefits, including a lower climate impact, but may lead to a delay in switching to more sustainable options. Carbon capture and storage can be built into power plants to remove their carbon dioxide emissions, but is expensive and has seldom been implemented.

Human impact on the environment Impact of human life on Earth

Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes changes to biophysical environments and to ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources caused directly or indirectly by humans, including global warming, environmental degradation, mass extinction and biodiversity loss, ecological crisis, and ecological collapse. Modifying the environment to fit the needs of society is causing severe effects. Some human activities that cause damage to the environment on a global scale include population growth, overconsumption, overexploitation, pollution, and deforestation. Some of the problems, including global warming and biodiversity loss, have been proposed as representing catastrophic risks to the survival of the human race.

Carbon offset Reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere

A carbon offset is a reduction or removal of emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. Offsets are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). One ton of carbon offset represents the reduction or removal of one ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. Both the Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Offsetting and the Science Based Targets initiative's Net-Zero Criteria argue for the importance of moving beyond offsets based on reduced or avoided emissions to offsets based on carbon that has been sequestered from the atmosphere, such as CO2 Removal Certificates (CORCs).

Environmental issues in Indonesia

Environmental issues in Indonesia are associated with the country's high population density and rapid industrialisation, and they are often given a lower priority due to high poverty levels, and an under-resourced governance.

Sustainable city City designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental impact

The sustainable city, eco-city, or green city is a city designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental impact, and resilient habitat for existing populations, without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 defines sustainable cities as those that are dedicated to achieving green sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability. They are committed to doing so by enabling opportunities for all through a design focused on inclusivity as well as maintaining a sustainable economic growth. The focus also includes minimizing required inputs of energy, water, and food, and drastically reducing waste, output of heat, air pollution – CO2, methane, and water pollution. Richard Register first coined the term ecocity in his 1987 book Ecocity Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future, where he offers innovative city planning solutions that would work anywhere. Other leading figures who envisioned sustainable cities are architect Paul F Downton, who later founded the company Ecopolis Pty Ltd, as well as authors Timothy Beatley and Steffen Lehmann, who have written extensively on the subject. The field of industrial ecology is sometimes used in planning these cities.

Greenhouse gas emissions Sources and amounts of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere from human activities

Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities strengthen the greenhouse effect, causing climate change. Most is carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. The largest polluters include coal in China and large oil and gas companies, many state-owned by OPEC and Russia. Human-caused emissions have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide by about 50%.

Climate change in China Emissions, impacts and responses of China related to climate change

Climate change in China is having major effects on the economy, society and the environment. China is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, through an energy infrastructure heavily focused on fossil fuels and coal. Also, other industries, such as a burgeoning construction industry and industrial manufacturing contribute heavily to carbon emissions. However, like other developing countries, on a per-capita basis, China's carbon emissions were considerably less than countries like the United States: as of 2016, they were the 51st most per capita emitter. It has also been noted that higher-income countries have outsourced emissions-intensive industries to China. On the basis of cumulative CO2 emissions measured from 1751 through to 2017, China is responsible for 13% globally and about half of the United State's cumulative emissions.

The environmental impact of agriculture is the effect that different farming practices have on the ecosystems around them, and how those effects can be traced back to those practices. The environmental impact of agriculture varies widely based on practices employed by farmers and by the scale of practice. Farming communities that try to reduce environmental impacts through modifying their practices will adopt sustainable agriculture practices. The negative impact of agriculture is an old issue that remains a concern even as experts design innovative means to reduce destruction and enhance eco-efficiency. Though some pastoralism is environmentally positive, modern animal agriculture practices tend to be more environmentally destructive than agricultural practices focused on fruits, vegetables and other biomass. The emissions of ammonia from cattle waste continues to raise concerns over environmental pollution.

Environmental effects of transport

The environmental effects of transport is significant because transport is a major user of energy, and burns most of the world's petroleum. This creates air pollution, including nitrous oxides and particulates, and is a significant contributor to global warming through emission of carbon dioxide. Within the transport sector, road transport is the largest contributor to global warming.

Climate change in Europe Emissions, impacts and responses of Europe related to climate change

Climate change in Europe has resulted in an increase in temperature of 1.9°C (2019) in the EU compared to pre-industrial level. According to international climate experts, global temperature rise should not exceed 2 °C to prevent the most dangerous consequences of climate change, without CO2 emissions cut that could happen before 2050. Emission reduction means development and implementation of new energy technology solutions. Some people consider that the technology revolution has already started in Europe, since the markets for renewable technology have annually grown.

Foreign direct investment and the environment involves international businesses and their interactions and impact on the natural world. These interactions can be observed through the stringency applied to foreign direct investment policy and the responsiveness of capital or labor incentive for investment inflows. The laws and regulations created by a country that focuses on environmental regimes can directly impact the levels of competition involving foreign direct investment they are exposed to. Fiscal and financial incentives stemming from ecological motivators, such as carbon taxation, are methods used based on the desired outcome within a country in order to attract foreign direct investment.

European Green Deal Plan to transform the EU into a climate-neutral economy by 2050

The European Green Deal is a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the overarching aim of making the European Union (EU) climate neutral in 2050. An impact assessed plan will also be presented to increase the EU's greenhouse gas emission reductions target for 2030 to at least 50% and towards 55% compared with 1990 levels. The plan is to review each existing law on its climate merits, and also introduce new legislation on the circular economy, building renovation, biodiversity, farming and innovation.

Next Generation EU COVID-19 support funding

The Next Generation EU (NGEU) fund is a European Union economic recovery package to support member states adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Agreed to by the European Council on 21 July 2020, the fund is worth €750 billion. The NGEU fund will operate from 2021–2023, and will be tied to the regular 2021–2027 budget of the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). The comprehensive NGEU and MFF packages are projected to reach €1824.3 billion.

Sustainable Development Goal 13 13th of 17 Sustainable Development Goals to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Sustainable Development Goal 13 is about climate action and is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015. The official wording is to "Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts". SDG 13 has targets which are to be achieved by 2030.

Sustainable Development Goal 11 11th of 17 Sustainable Development Goals for sustainable cities

Sustainable Development Goal 11 is about "sustainable cities and communities" and is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. The SDG 11 is to "Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable". The 17 SDGs take into account that action in one area will affect outcomes in other areas as well, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Green recovery is a proposed package of environmental, regulatory and fiscal reforms to recover prosperity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Support has come from multiple political parties, governments, activists and academia across the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries. A key part of the package is to ensure that actions to combat recession also combat climate change, including the reduction of coal, oil, and gas use, clean transport, renewable energy, eco-friendly buildings, and sustainable corporate or financial practices. These initiatives are supported by the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In July 2021, the International Energy Agency warned that only around 2% of economic bailout money worldwide was going to clean energy. OECD data shows that only 17% of COVID-19 recovery investments funds had been allocated to a green recovery as of March 2021.

Climate change in Israel

Climate change in Israel refers to the effects of climate change attributed to man-made increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the nation of Israel. The Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection has reported that climate change "will have a decisive impact on all areas of life, including: water, public health, agriculture, energy, biodiversity, coastal infrastructure, economics, nature, national security, and geostrategy", and will have the greatest effect on vulnerable populations such as the poor, the elderly, and the chronically ill.

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