Nature does not heal – The Verge

Dolphins did not return to cleaner canals in Venice, Italy this year. The critically endangered Malabar civet has not been spotted on the streets of Kerala, India. And, against one meme, there were certainly no dinosaurs in Times Square. Most of the memes that claimed “nature is healing” while COVID-19 shut down a worldwide business were deceptive or just a joke to ease a heavy year. The truth is, even though it has managed to sustain humans for parts of the year, the pandemic does not leave us with a healthier planet.

There were fewer plane and car trips this year, which means fewer tail pipe emissions. But that did not bring major environmental benefits. If anything, this year has shown us how much more we need to go to clean up the enormous amount of damage we have done to our planet.

For starters, air quality assessment in 2020 is complex. As early as January, it looked as if skies had cleared across China – the first country to deal with the novel coronavirus and how it fell out. Nitrogen dioxide levels across China were falling sharply in maps released by NASA and ESA. As the pandemic progressed, reports appeared in cleaner skies across the globe. In November, NASA found that the pandemic reduced nearly 2 percent worldwide in nitrogen dioxide concentrations. Nitrogen dioxide is a toxic gas found in tailpipe emissions, so it makes sense that it fell when people stayed home. But that is only part of the picture when it comes to air quality.

As nitrogen dioxide pollution fell, other dangerous pollutants seemed to fall and even rise in some parts of the U.S. A recent study – made up largely of soot from combustion fuels – apparently found time at home stay orders as a result of a pandemic in April, a recent study found. This is especially dangerous during the pandemic because of the amount of damage caused by granular pollutants in human lungs and hearts – organs that are also inhibited by COVID-19.

The pandemic may not have made big teeth in pollution, but pollution certainly made the pandemic worse for some hardy communities. Living with air pollution – especially harmful substances – is linked to an increased risk of dying from COVID-19, a study this year found. Black and Latino people, who have an unfair responsibility for air pollution in the U.S., also faced higher hospitalization and death rates during the pandemic than white Americans.

Researchers have some ideas about why grain pollution grew and how nitrogen dioxide died out in the U.S. this year. This may be due to the fact that more gritty material is coming from diesel incinerators, which delivered more packages than usual when people were buying from home, but they still need to confirm this idea. “That’s the secret we’re going to try to solve,” said Cristina Archer, lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Delaware’s College of Land, Ocean and Environment.

Even if some pollution has fallen for some time, that will do us little good to move forward, Archer warns. “We are finally going to return to normal life,” she says. Nitrogen dioxide levels have already begun to move back to mid-year in cities around the world as COVID-19 restrictions eased. “Reduction [in pollution] that’s temporary, but that’s not intentional – I don’t think it helps much. It is strategies, and design, and conscious efforts to reduce air pollution. ”

The same thing happens for greenhouse gases. The U.S. saw its biggest year-over-year drop in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 when Americans stayed home to stop COVID-19 emissions. Global emissions fell to their lowest levels since 2006 in April. By the end of the year, global CO2 emissions are expected to fall by around 7 percent. But to stop the world from shifting to catastrophic levels of climate change, we must continue to cut more than 7 percent of our emissions each year over the next decade. ahead – without a pandemic forcing us to make that change. Without the cuts though, the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will continue to rise, as it did this year.

“Human waste is in the atmosphere and that’s not going away,” said Ralph Keeling, a professor of geochemistry at the Scripps Institute of Marine Science at the University of California, San Diego. The edge earlier this year. “CO2 is growing in response not only to what we are emitting now but what we have emitted over the past century. ”

Ultimately, this is not a numbers game. Once we have released pollutants into our environment, they will come back to slow us down. All the carbon dioxide that heats our planet is making summers hotter and burning more destructive. Warmer weather triggers the chemical reaction that creates mesh, which is one of the reasons Southern California – one of the most polluted areas in the U.S. – has had smog worse. what he saw decades ago. Historic wildfires darkened across the western U.S. in the second half of the year. The smoke at the same time made it harder to breathe and halted the decline in greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. power sector this year.

As 2020 draws to a close, we are still in the thick of the global health crisis caused by COVID-19. Once that danger passes, however, pollution will still pose a threat to human health and the planet. That is, if we do not heed the advice of scientists like Archer and make more conscious efforts to do something about it. If we really want to bring nature back to health, we cannot rely on a pandemic to do it for us.