Although coronavirus is changing our lives at school, work and home (some might argue in a negative way), studies show that there is a hidden positive: the lessening amount of pollution in the air; however, with this new positive comes a few downsides, including a change in gas price, possible new car sales and (ironically) a lack of focus on the environment.
Because of the increase of people staying inside and working/learning from home, researchers have conducted experiments in major cities, such as New York and London, to prove that there is a difference in air pollution. The results display a significant decrease in the level of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, chemicals that are connected to climate change all over the world.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Air Quality Branch is also examining the change of chemicals in the air, monitoring for ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. The Air Branch Manager in Jacksonville, Mike Williams, gathered some recent data on the air pollution. Although he admits it is a little early to determine definite trends, he says there has been “a slight decrease [of particles during] the last part of March.”
The most logical explanation for this decrease is the number of people who are quarantined and working from home. Dr. Moyer, Biology and Environmental Science Honors teacher at Bolles, explains the link between travel and reduced carbon emissions: “With fewer fossil fuels being burned, there is a corresponding reduction in emissions. This will continue as long as vastly fewer people are traveling by car and plane.”
On the negative side, Dr. Moyer points out that there are some other changes happening locally. “For instance, the turmoil in the oil market caused, in part, by reduced global demand has caused gas prices to drop to $1.69/gallon at my neighborhood gas station.” Moreover, because of this price drop, buyers interested in purchasing a new car will no longer weigh fuel efficiency as equal to aesthetic qualities, such as the exterior design.
Despite its possible benefits for the car industry, Moyer sees how the pandemic will negatively affect the future of car sales; it will cause a “significant impact on what vehicles people choose to purchase—vehicles that they will drive for many years afterwards.”
Additionally, the everyday individual’s priorities have shifted due to coronavirus. Moyer explains that “many people are hyper-focused on their immediate health and dealing with the economic ripple effects of losing their jobs or bankruptcy. In such times, addressing pollution can get pushed down the priority list.”
According to Moyer, the biggest challenge that our community will have to face is maintaining a low level of pollution. After people stop quarantining themselves, it is possible that they will ignore the consequences and continue to travel frequently by car, causing the carbon emission level to rise once more.
In order to prevent this situation from occurring, Moyer recommends that we, as a community, work on three things:
First, we should focus on the 3 R’s, with the exception of ‘recycle.’ He explains, “It is important to de-emphasize the ‘recycling,’ and prioritize the ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse.’”
Secondly, we should learn more about the area in which we live. Moyer explains, “Once people are aware of things and have a fondness for them, they will be more likely to be interested in conserving them.”
Lastly, we should all be more aware of how important it is to decrease pollution around the world. Moyer adds, “If one wants to keep levels of pollution low after the pandemic ends, one needs to break through the noise of all the other stress that people are dealing with, connect with them, and convince them that it will be in their best interest to implement changes that will continue to keep pollution low.”