Although this quarantine is a trying time for us all, it provides scientists with exciting new information on human’s effects on climate change. This new information should inspire climate change deniers into becoming believers.
While the entire planet has been on pause, overall carbon emissions have been reduced, air pollution in major cities is going down, and the waters of Venice are clear and populated with marine life again. With humans stuck inside, nature slowly returns to its natural equilibrium. These changes in ecological patterns inspire a new outlook on humankind’s relationship to the environment.
Considering our schools acclaimed research in climate studies, most of our student population already understands humans’ impact on the environment. To other people, however, there the connection between human activity and climate change is unclear: In a study done by researchers at Yale University, 42 percent of those surveyed did not know if climate change was primarily caused by human interaction, but the international quarantine offers irrefutable proof. For example, climate researchers predict that the coronavirus epidemic will halve CO2 emissions in 2020. When the world begins to see how beneficial cutting CO2 emissions will be for the environment, it will increase “climate literacy” among skeptics. With this new knowledge in mind, people will be more inclined to change their habits.
Furthermore, the international solidarity we’ve seen during the coronavirus pandemic proves the world’s ability to effectively work together in halting a crisis. The world will come out of this pandemic knowing that it’s possible to make a difference in flattening a curve. After this pandemic, there will be a wave of post traumatic growth where the world positively restructures. In that rebuilding period, the world should be willing to tackle flattening the Keeling curve, which measures the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
People staying inside for a few weeks will not completely undo the decades of damage humankind has done to our environment, but quarantine shows that every person can do something small to make a difference. Hope is not lost for our warming planet — if people and companies recognize climate change is caused by humans, and they choose to minimize their ecological footprint because of it, the planet will become a little more sustainable.
Amidst the social and economic carnage this virus causes, remember there are silver linings: The climate research being done during quarantine immensely benefits science and the environment. The data collected will convince people of the legitimacy of climate change and its human causes. With the international teamwork used to halt the spread of coronavirus, networks are being made that will be essential in stopping the climate crisis. While we may be stuck indoors, the environment slowly returns to its beautiful, natural state. Climate research creates something everybody can be grateful for.
Artwork by Angela Liang of the UCSD Guardian Art Department.