Eye-Witness to Climate Changing Amid Pandemic



Ella Brahmst ('22)

STANWICH ROAD/REMOTE – The Covid-19 global pandemic, through the stay-at-home orders which stretch across the nation and the world in many places, has had an odd side-effect.

The lack of travel, commuting and short and long-distance vacationing is highlighting the evident effect that humans have had on our Earth through absence, including the effects of greenhouse gases, pollution, and habitat encroachment. 

Countless environmental events have happened around the world in these short few months. From emissions dropping dramatically, to “mobs” of monkeys roaming the streets of Thailand, we are seeing dramatic change in our world.        

“What is clear from environmental reports around the world is that right now, nature can still be more visible, and more productive, when emissions fall”, says Laura di Bonaventura, GCDS’s Sustainability Director.  

Along with the U.S., many nations have been under quarantine, resulting in a reduction in the use of fossil fuels around the world. 

China, the world’s largest gas emitter, dropped fossil fuel emissions by 40% since the beginning of the pandemic quarantine. When Northern Italy was hit hardest, its emissions also dropped by 40%. New York City decreased its pollutants by 50% by going into lockdown.

These numbers are enormous, and have an impact on our world.  While coming against the backdrop of health crises, they also illustrate what our world could look like using renewable energy.  Not “to go without,” but to go “with” – but in a different direction.

As air pollution and tourism drop, places are transforming.  The canals of Venice have crystal blue water due to the lack of cruise ships and their pollutants, and visitors not leaving waste and trash behind.

It is also true that the tourism industry is taking a heavy toll, which affects general welfare and poverty in the heavily-Covid-stricken Italian city.  This can lead to discontent but also lead them to reassess wh they are, according to the Mayor of the famous canal city.

In Northern India, people are able to see the Himalayas for the first time in decades because of the drop of emissions. New Delhi residents, usually buried in a cloud of smog, see clear blue skies after air pollution decreases. 

All of these events are demonstrating something very important to our civilizations.  “A glimpse of what the world might look like without fossil fuels,”  stated the Guardian. 

Deepali Patel from Gavi Vaccine Alliance explained on his website that the pandemic likely originated from a bat, joining a long line of diseases that have jumped from animals to humans. The encroachment on the environment by humans may increase the likelihood of other diseases like COVID-19 

The scientific community worldwide is essentially unanimous in forecasting increasingly dire changes unless emissions are reduced by at least 1/3 in the next 10 years, per the IPCC’s 5th Report.

The scientific community is largely united in calling for emissions reduction. Leading research institutions have mapped out scenarios to achieve this- all of which call for replacing fossil fuels with clean energy. 

According to Yale’s Project on Climate Communications, more than 70% of the American public favors clean energy, along with requiring electric utilities to shift from fossil to clean energy. How to achieve this is the subject of political debate and compromise. 

Ella Brahmst is a rising junior who founded EarthRise, the union of local students for climate action.