Isolation and other shifts in behavior during the coronavirus outbreak could also alter our greenhouse gas emissions. But will the changes stick?
By John Schwartz March 13, 2020
As the nation shifts abruptly into the fight against coronavirus, a question arises: could social isolation help reduce an individual’s production of greenhouse gases and end up having unexpected consequences for climate change?
The biggest sources of carbon emissions caused by our lifestyles come from three activities, said Kimberly Nicholas, a researcher at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies in Sweden: “Any time you can avoid getting on a plane, getting in a car or eating animal products, that’s a substantial climate savings.” Many people trying to avoid the coronavirus are already two-thirds of the way there.
Christopher M. Jones, lead developer at the CoolClimate Network, an applied research consortium at the U.C. Berkeley Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, said that “all these extra precautions that schools and businesses are taking to keep people home are saving lives, and that’s clearly what’s most important.” Having said that, he added that many of the actions people are taking in response to the coronavirus outbreak could have a benefit of reduced carbon footprint–though others would have little effect or could even expand it.
Here are four areas we may see changes in greenhouse gas emissions because of the coronavirus.