COVID-19 and its effects on the environment

April 20, 2020 by  
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As SARS-CoV-2, the novel  coronavirus  pathogen that causes the illness COVID-19, sweeps across the globe, social distancing measures are noticeably impacting the  environment . Consequently, both the preservation and restoration of environmental quality are experiencing a new normal as the pandemic continues. Coronavirus and climate change-related conservation COVID-19 has heightened wildlife conservation awareness. As  Scientific American  has cited, wildlife trade secured additional notoriety when the  CDC  broke the news of a zoonotic pathogen jumping from animals to humans, causing the current pandemic. Secondly, when the  American Veterinary Medical Association  announced the positive presence of COVID-19 in domestic animals, zoos and  BioTechniques Journal  likewise saw captive animals test positive with the new coronavirus. This elevated concerns for sources such as  UNESCO ,  Time ,  Nature  and  Smithsonian Magazine  about the future safety of already threatened species, like the great apes who are similar to humans. Additionally,  National Geographic  raised alarms on poaching proliferation in conservation reserves as rangers and keepers self-isolated. Related:  Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats Should climate change run unabated, future zoonotic disease outbreaks may become the norm, asserts  Conservation International  and  Harvard University’s School of Public Health . Given that healthy animals living in healthy ecosystems are robust enough to resist diseases, by minimizing climate change and protecting habitats, we may be able to avoid future pandemics.   Social distancing has improved air quality The  COVID-19  crisis has forced activity freezes. Lockdowns and calls to shelter-in-place have closed schools and non-essential businesses. Minimal activity from industrial sites, factories and construction sectors has minimized the risks for toxins to escape, in turn improving  air quality . Travel bans have similarly restricted international flights. Canceled conferences, festivals, concerts and other public events have diminished interest in tourism, reports the  US Travel Association . Airline ridership has slumped, and airports are as near-empty as they were in the 2001 aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As such, aviation emissions — which accounted for 2.4% of global  CO2 emissions  in 2018, according to the  Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)  — have dropped significantly. Still, the  EPA  says vehicular activity contributes more to  greenhouse gas emissions  than airlines do. Presently, fewer people are commuting, not just in major cities, but all over the world. Traffic nowadays centers mainly around immediate household supply runs to nearby stores, trucking supply transports to retailers or wholesalers, plus commutes by those in essential industries. Both  Traffic Technology Today  and  The Guardian  have spotlighted the United Kingdom’s reduced traffic, which has plunged by 73% “to levels not seen since 1955.” And across the Atlantic Ocean, Canadian traffic has also declined,  GEOTAB  disclosed. As for the U.S., not only has road travel decreased, but congestion has all but disappeared, says  VentureBeat ,  Next City  and  USA Today . The decrease in congestion is critical, as idling  vehicles emit more pollution .  With substantially less vehicular movement, air quality has improved by leaps and bounds. Numerous sources have covered how air quality indices of the globe’s largest metropolitan areas have improved extensively since strict coronavirus lockdowns were issued. Even  NASA  satellites from outer-space show the significant reductions in air pollutants, which supports EcoWatch ‘s observation that the novel coronavirus  pandemic  has delivered the silver lining of decreased  air pollution .  The Guardian  added, “In China, the world’s biggest source of  carbon , emissions were down about 18% between early February and mid-March – a cut of 250m tonnes, equivalent to more than half the UK’s annual output. Europe is forecast to see a reduction of around 390m tonnes. Significant falls can also be expected in the US, where passenger vehicle traffic – its major source of CO2 – has fallen by nearly 40%. Even assuming a bounceback once the lockdown is lifted, the planet is expected to see its first fall in global  emissions  since the 2008-9 financial crisis.” Reduced carbon emissions and global warming Just last week,  Carbon Brief (CB)  published that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted  energy use  worldwide, which could cut carbon emissions by an estimated 5% of 2019’s global total. That means the coronavirus crisis is so far “trigger[ing] the largest ever annual fall in CO2 emissions in 2020, more than during any previous economic crisis or period of war.” While this is encouraging news, experts say it still may not be adequate for meeting  Paris Agreement  goals to keep global warming from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. What’s happening with fossil fuels during the pandemic? When the pandemic called for lockdowns, paralyzing both air and ground travel, the demand for fuel was likewise decimated. An oil price war ensued with drastic shifts in global oil politics, thus destabilizing the fossil fuel sector, reported  Business Insider . Even  Fortune  magazine highlighted the worry about where to store the surplus oil. According to  Forbes , this pushed President Trump to broker a historic deal, whereby the planet’s top oil producers — namely Saudi Arabia and Russia — agreed to cut oil production. As Sandy Fielden, director of oil research firm Morningstar, said to the  BBC , “This is an unprecedented agreement because it’s not just between Opec and Opec+…but also the largest supplier in the world which is the US as well as other G-20 countries which have agreed to support the agreement both in reducing production and also in using up some of the surface supply by putting it into storage.” Effects on the renewable energy sector CNBC  showed the  renewables  industry suffering supply chain cuts and employee layoffs during the deepening COVID-19 recession. There are worries that clean energy investments appear less desirable. Construction and development projects have been delayed as lockdown periods extend. Renewables, therefore, seek slices of the stimulus package to waylay progress derailments, which even the  International Energy Agency (IEA)  has cautioned about. What’s happening to climate change policy during the coronavirus pandemic? COVID-19 could portend future pandemics, particularly if  global warming  unleashes unknown diseases trapped in ice. Ensuring that global warming and  climate change  do not disrupt our planet’s health is still of paramount importance.  Green Tech Media  emphasized this, saying, “Climate change didn’t stop as the world turned its attention to combating the coronavirus.” Climate activism continues, despite cancellations to large climate change-related summits, negotiations and conference meetings. Not all  climate  advocacy during this time is lost. Optimism reframes these economic stimulus measures as helpful nudges for climate policy and the renewables sector to evolve for the better. Indeed,  Clean Energy Wire  upholds that these federally-backed stimulus packages can be leveraged to provide investment opportunities in both the infrastructure that can reduce emissions as well as in  clean  technologies.  Science Alert , moreover, contends, “the coronavirus has forced new working-from-home habits that limit commuting, and a broader adoption of online meetings to reduce the need for long-haul business flights. This raises the prospect of long-term emissions reductions should these new work behaviours persist beyond the current global emergency.” Images via Pexels

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COVID-19 and its effects on the environment

General Motors, International Paper name their first CSOs

March 3, 2020 by  
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Plus a new ‘ClimateVoice’ seeks to pump up the volume on climate policy in business.

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General Motors, International Paper name their first CSOs

How long will the slowdown in renewables last?

March 3, 2020 by  
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There was impressive growth in renewables during the last decade, with about $2.6 trillion of clean energy investments. But the market seems poised to transition from a sprint to a long-distance event.

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How long will the slowdown in renewables last?

The evolution of corporate activism: Lessons from GreenBiz 20

February 19, 2020 by  
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The conversation on corporate activism on climate policy is finally getting going. And there’s a surprisingly rich toolkit.

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The evolution of corporate activism: Lessons from GreenBiz 20

Deep decarbonization: A realistic way forward on climate change

February 19, 2020 by  
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Global emissions have soared by two-thirds in the three decades since international climate talks began. To make the reductions required, what’s needed is a new approach that creates incentives for leading countries and industries to spark transformative technological revolutions.

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Deep decarbonization: A realistic way forward on climate change

Corporate philanthropy in the era of climate shocks

February 19, 2020 by  
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With companies’ environmental, social and governance initiatives largely focused on mitigation and adaptation, the lines are blurring between corporate sustainability and philanthropy.

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Corporate philanthropy in the era of climate shocks

Corporate climate action: A matter of policy

March 26, 2019 by  
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The time for companies sitting on the sidelines on climate policy — or saying one thing and doing another — is running out.

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Corporate climate action: A matter of policy

The decarbonization ideals underlying the Green New Deal are not unattainable

March 26, 2019 by  
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Massive electrification will bring about a new American abundance.

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The decarbonization ideals underlying the Green New Deal are not unattainable

Annie Leonard of Greenpeace on mixing business with politics

October 23, 2017 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. In this episode: The Greenpeace leader explores the future of climate policy in uncertain times.

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Annie Leonard of Greenpeace on mixing business with politics

Popular zoos, aquariums take up sustainable palm oil cause

October 23, 2017 by  
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A worldwide campaign to inform the general public about species and habitat loss related to uncertified production.

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Popular zoos, aquariums take up sustainable palm oil cause

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