Climate change has been a matter of concern over the years. With the World Health Organization report that links over 2 million deaths to air pollution, the need to ensure a sustainable environment attracted expedited concerns, advocacy and policies. Though these efforts have recorded some level of success, the current impact of the novel coronavirus is unprecedented.

As many people are now aware, the outbreak of the coronavirus has profoundly changed the world. While this crisis is first and foremost a public health issue that has claimed the lives of over 170,000 people worldwide and counting, it has, however, made glorious impact on our environment, unwittingly though.

As a control measure against its further spread, countries around the world have adopted lockdowns, halting industrial activities, construction work and major transportation networks — sectors hatuse fossil fuel-based energy sources and which are responsible for air pollution and overall climate change. It is, therefore, no surprise that recent satellite images shared by the European Space Agency and NASA establish that nitrogen dioxide pollution has come down significantly. The most significant declines have been observed in Italy, Spain and Iran, which happen to be countries with the most stringent lockdowns.

While this situation is proving to be good for the environment, it could be reversed when global economies resume their normal activities after the pandemic is over. But are there lessons the lockdown unearthed?

First, the social distancing currently in place encourages us to commute and travel less, reduce household waste and rely more on local supply chains. In addition, the rapid response to, and the publicity accorded to the coronavirus, should be extended to climate change too.

If no global emergency is declared over climate change, it could get deadlier than the coronavirus.

Goodness Ezeh

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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