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Monday 6th July 2020

Will lockdown really have a long-term impact on the environment? As we see streets and cities become quieter, skies become less busy and industrial shut downs, it is obvious that there have been short term effects of Lockdown, but is this going to affect our environment in the long run? When the pandemic eventually subsides, will carbon and pollutant emissions “bounce back” so much that it will be as if this clear-skied interlude never happened? Or could the changes we see today have a more persistent effect?

Border closures have led to reductions in air pollution due to decreased travel and even though this was temporary, it may become an example of change in our way of life, prompting new ideas on how to have a cleaner environment. In China, the period of Lockdown resulted in a 25% reduction in carbon emissions, but as we see measures begin to ease, we can question what the impact of this will be in the long-run.

There has also been a noticeable improvement in the aesthetic of the environment. Venice for example has experienced greater water flow and a decrease in air pollution along the waterways, not to mention clearer water in the canals, which has been attributed to the settling of sediment that would otherwise be disturbed by boat traffic.

A study published in May 2020 found that the daily global carbon emissions during the lockdown measures in early April fell by 17% and could lead to an annual carbon emission decline of up to 7%- potentially the biggest drop since World War II according to the researchers. Interestingly, in a recent update of a study originally published in the Nature Climate Change journal, fossil fuel pollution has bounced back rapidly as Lockdowns have started to lift around the world. This is especially disappointing as in early April- when billions of people were sheltering in place- global daily carbon dioxide emissions were 17 percent lower than they were in 2019. It is likely that as we see a return to ‘normalcy’, these emissions are going to rise back up, possibly even increasing as a result of the lack of trust in public transport prompting more people to use private vehicles.

Recently, images have been circulating of beaches littered with gloves and masks due to their mass use. Keeping in mind that plastic pollution was undoubtedly one of humanity’s greatest challenges even before COVID-19 emerged, it is saddening that as a consequence of the unprecedented use of disposable face masks, a significant number of masks have been discarded in the natural environment- adding to the worldwide burden of plastic waste.

Scientists have come to understand that the drop of emissions most likely won’t last, but how will this pandemic change the way we all live our everyday lives? Will we begin to reduce our carbon footprint and become cleaner? Will we become more conscious of how we shop, with the increased popularity of apps that allow us to easily purchase pre-loved clothes while we were at home during the Lockdown, such as Depop? We can all work together to make a change. Please take this extra time to educate yourself on this issue and consider: what simple changes can you make to your lifestyle?

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A level results day 8:00am on 13th August 2020

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