How the coronavirus crisis has affected the environment

  • Office of the Principal
  • June 10th, 2020

The Universitat de València's senior environmental technician, Alberto de la Guardia, analyses if the confinement and quarantine measures to stop the expansion of the COVID-19 have been an improvement for the climate crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the confinement of much of the world's population. With the reduction of traffic, such as road, air and sea traffic, and the paralysis of part of the industry, emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere have been reduced. And the images of crystal-clear waters in Venice or the image of a clear Everest in India have become famous.  But has the reduction in human activities really improved the levels of pollution that cause climate change?

Alberto de la Guardia analyses the environmental situation in recent months and points out that the reduction in road traffic has improved air quality due to nitrogen dioxide. The images show a clear decrease in pollution levels in cities such as Madrid (with a 48% reduction), Paris (-54%) or Milan (-47%). Moreover, 'this improvement in air quality has a direct impact on patients affected by coronavirus, as this does not complicate their respiratory failure,' explains Alberto de la Guardia.

Regarding the impact on climate change, it is still early to know. We can't compare with serious pandemics of the past because they were a long time ago. But we can use as a reference the reduction of emissions from the economic crisis of 2008', says De la Guardia. The graph shows the global emissions of CO2. 'Towards 2009, we see a deceleration of these emissions of 5%, but then they continue to accelerate very quickly,' he says.

' Regarding the greenhouse effect, the graph shows the amount of CO2 that accumulates in the atmosphere and with respect to the previous crisis, not only is there no visible improvement, but the greenhouse effect is worsening faster and faster,' explains the technician from the Prevention and Environment Service.

As a conclusion to his analysis, it would be necessary a much longer quarantine to be able to improve the data, a situation that becomes unsustainable at an economic level. The coronavirus is the worst problem of humanity this year, but climate change is the biggest problem of the planet this century. We must put in place permanent solutions and when we move to this new normality, we must ensure that we solve all the problems that the old normality left us', points out Alberto de la Guardia.