Is the Corona Virus Good for the Environment?
Exclusive English News Scientific Report.
This article examines the hypothesis of whether the Corona Virus / Covid-19 is good for the environment. This article examines the question “Is the Coronavirus Good for the Environment” focusing on both the short term and long term effects of coronavirus and includes primary data sources. Overall it is expected that the Coronavirus will reduce global human pollution levels however flawed responses to this could negate its beneficial impact. If the Coronavirus does not have worse unknown future mutations or damaging long term effects on human genetics then it could be said that Coronavirus will be highly beneficial for humanity and its environment.
Short Term Effects of Coronavirus:
Heavy reduction in industrial and travel emissions and pollution
The reduction in industrial activity and travel within China during the period around the announcement of a criris of Coronavirus in China that occurred over the Chinese New Year caused an estimated 6% (100Million x1000kg*) decline in global carbon emissions in just that 2 week period. *1000kg = 1Mg / Metric Tonne
The coal consumption in Chinese Coal power plants reached a comparative 4 year low during the period after Chinese new year. The production of Fuel in China’s main fuel production area of Shandong Province hit a comparative 5 year low. However this activity has increased since but may never recover to 100%.
“Measures to contain coronavirus have resulted in reductions of 15 percent to 40 percent in output across key industrial sectors [in China]…This is likely to have wiped out a quarter or more of the country’s CO2 emissions over the past two weeks, the period when activity would normally have resumed after the Chinese New Year holiday.”
-CREA (Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air)
There has been a 50-90% Reduction in the intensity of flights departing mainland China.
This according to the OAG, a global travel data provider in the UK .
Reported also was a 60-70% decline in domestic flights internally within China during the height of the coronavirus.
Estimating the carbon dioxide emissions of these flights is an estimate however according to data comparisons from previous years these flights are responsible for 17% of all carbon dioxide emissions from all commercial passenger aviation. However this reduction is only for a limited time period. However the overall numbers will not recover by 100%. During this period global comparative flight emissions of co2 reduced will have been reduced by between 5% and 15% for this short period.
Long Term Effects of the Coronavirus:
Increased reliance on local industry and lessons learned from Coronavirus.
We can see in the UK and US political discourse a growing movement for less reliance on China for medical and industrial imports. In the UK 3D printing has been used to bypass imports and various firms from McLaren to Dyson have been building items they would not otherwise. Perhaps some companies will see this window as something to develop and create a lower carbon footprint local industrial supply for various niche items. If this were to expand and continue long term this could have a hugely positive effect on reducing the impact of production on emissions and the chain of pollution caused by plastic productions.
- Locally built items have a lower carbon footprint.
- Western industrial facilities generally have higher standards in emissions reduction methods of the most damaging chemicals.
Some of the most environmentally damaging, resource intensive humans are more likely to die:
Fat, Obese and biologically disabled people will die due to Coronavirus
On the visceral reality level of analysis Coronavirus will result in less humans. Particularly less disabled humans with complex health needs that cost the tax payer (in countries with state funded health systems) billions every year. Overweight humans are also more likely to die and thus riding humanity of its least efficient members in terms of reliance on constant resource consumption and the environmental damage that causes down the food production chain. Globally less humans equals less human environmental damage. Those most likely to die are those that are the most damaging to the environment (and human economies) generally. Additionally less humans traveling for pointless foreign holidays will see a huge reduction in the long term for retail travel.
Industrial Production Reductions and some increases due to Coronavirus
Steel production companies in China have doubled their output into their stockpiles ready to sell in the next quarter. This indicates these companies are aware of a potential stimulus package effect of an economic upsurge in activity caused by multiple billions in government stimulus spending plans worldwide.
Corroborating this prediction, measures after the 2008 economic crisis in the US saw a 5% increase in carbon emissions due to the huge economic stimulus packages deployed by the government. These stimulus packages are being seen worldwide in a flawed, wasteful economic approach to coronavirus which also will result in an unhealthy spike in industrial activity and a sudden oversupply in the market. English News criticized this ‘economic stimulus’ response tactic of governments in a previous article.
Coronavirus is causing Substantial reductions in most categories of production in China and globally.
The added value of 39 industries decreased, of which, the processing of agricultural and sideline food industry, manufacture of textile, chemical raw materials and chemical products manufacturing industry, manufacture of non-metallic mineral products industry, smelting and processing of ferrous metal, smelting and processing of non-ferrous metal, manufacture of general machinery, manufacture of special-purpose machinery, automobile manufacturing industry, manufacture of railways, shipbuilding, aerospace and other transportation equipment, manufacture of electric machinery and equipment, manufacture of computer, communication equipment and other electronic equipment, and production and supply of electric power and heat power respectively decreased by 16.0, 27.2, 12.3, 21.1, 2.0, 8.5, 28.2, 24.4, 31.8, 28.2, 24.7, 13.8 and 7.3 percent.
– Industrial Production Operation in the First Two Months of 2020, National Bureau of Statistics of China. 17/03/2020
We can assume that this pattern has repeated itself in every affected country to varying degrees of intensity. This reduction in production and the knock on reduction along the entire chain of fossil fuel burning to retail distribution is undeniably positive for reducing CO2 emissions and hundreds of other emissions and forms of harmful pollution such as factory wastage into water sources including the ocean.
The Coronavirus and India
Is the Coronavirus Good for the Environment? -Outside of China, especially in the case India, the indicators suggest the reduction in emissions and pollution elsewhere will follow a similar trajectory. India has enforced a strict, nation wide shutdown of all non infrastructure related travel and traffic. The Coronavirus is in the process of shutting down India, as a result of good government policy that will last for several weeks. India is the 2nd most air-polluting nation on Earth, second only to China. This will have a huge positive environmental impact. In terms of overall environmental impact, studies suggest India is the 3rd overall largest polluter on Earth. However long this shutdown lasts, the benefit will be positive through having prevented emissions from India’s millions of highly inefficient road vehicles and thousands of factories. Data from the effect the Coronavirus has had on China’s pollution indicates a trajectory for India’s shutdown to follow in its effect. We can assume a 70-90% reduction in co2 emissions and a shutdown in factory waste production.
Coronavirus Effect on the International Travel and Tourism Market:
Undoubtedly fear of the Coronavirus will see a lasting reduction in the retail travel sector. Fear of new viruses that might emerge will see a long term decrease in the quantities of humans traveling internationally. Economic systems will adapt. Flights will become more expensive to make up for short-term economic issues, flights are predicted to become marginally less frequent to ensure each plane sells all its seats to passengers.
The impact on hotels will see a reduction in hotels through the collapse of many hotel’s profitability due to the reduction in tourism. This will help prevent pollution at tourist hot-spots allowing certain environments to recover from the constant tourism season barrage of waste plastic. However it is expected that hideously wasteful and anti-environmental Government spending plans will seek to artificially keep afloat the bigger power-pushing companies that dominate the disgusting, environmentally irresponsible tourism industry. The tourism industry is likely to become even more consolidated by the largest, most environmentally destructive chains as smaller chains and independent hotels collapse or partially convert into other usages to survive.
Overall, Is the Coronavirus Good for the Environment?
The Corona virus / Covid-19 will have a positive effect on the overall environment
The effect of Coronavirus is undoubtedly a net positive by a substantial amount with almost no negative effects for the environment (unless the virus were to mutate to kill non-humans). How much of a positive effect it has beyond this current lock-down attempt by various governments relies on the political policy makers and the initiative of local factories and producers to realize the massive opportunity a reduction in the prior international, china dominated sourcing of goods means.
That this virus started in China is hugely beneficial in terms of environmental benefits. Selfish companies will however seek to still source items from China, however consumers will look to not buy made in China increasingly over justified health concerns, this will then have a delayed impact on making businesses realize their sales of Chinese goods are not as high as they were and open up a market window for non-Chinese goods.
Non-Chinese produced goods we can assume may have been produced with higher environmental standards and if not, in most of the Western world they will still have a lower carbon footprint. We will see from this crisis a slight resurgence in local hand made industries and made in ‘x’* products (*not-China). This pattern should persist globally in countries not immediately neighbouring China.
However illogical the consumer response is as the US now has more virus cases than China, regardless it is not just China’s international export market that will be hit, causing this, it is that all international export markets are being hit, this is a fact.
This fact means lower frequency of shipping, lower consumption of nonessential goods. This will be beneficial for reducing emissions mainly at the point of production and marginally from air-freight shipping. Sea freight shipping being slow is so slow that coronavirus dies on surfaces before the vessel reaches its destination and thus Sea Freight is likely to not be impacted.
There is however an almost assured environmentally negative potential post crisis recovery economic surge. The impact of this depends on the approaches taken and who recovers first from the coronavirus. However if the Coronavirus returns seasonally then we can assume that from 2020 onward there will be seasonal reductions in travel and large human reliant industries (both at the consumer end and the factory staff origin point of products). We may see an increase in sanitation in logistics leading to the use of more chemicals. However emissions of CO2 will be reduced long term even if economic stimulus packages cause a temporary surge (if) after various governments deem the areas they control have ‘recovered’ from the coronavirus (or decide to put the economy ahead of the lives of their citizens) and lift restrictions on travel and encourage rampant consumerism.
“After the coronavirus calms down, it is quite likely we will observe a round of so-called ‘retaliatory pollutions’ – factories maximizing production to compensate for their losses during the shutdown period… This is a tested and proven pattern”
-Li Shuo, Greenpeace China.
Information Sources used to establish if the Coronavirus is Good for the Environment:
National Bureau of Statistics of China  http://www.stats.gov.cn/english/PressRelease/202003/t20200317_1732640.html
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite imagery data  https://www.nasa.gov/news/media/info/index.html
International Council on Clean Transportation [PDF]  https://theicct.org/sites/default/files/publications/ICCT_CO2-commercl-aviation-2018_20190918.pdf
Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA)  https://energyandcleanair.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CREA-brief-China2019.pdf
Article on the Flawed Economic response to Coronavirus by English News  https://englishnews.org/2020/03/18/idiotic-response-to-coronavirus-failing/
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