COVID-19 Lockdowns Clear Skies

People hate to take the heat. We are masters of deflection and somehow always find a way to put the blame on someone, or something, else. And then, when there’s no one else to blame, we resort to sheer denial. Take climate change, for example.

On an episode of “Good Morning Britain” in 2019, Trump blamed Russia, China, and India for their emissions, and claimed, “Well, the United States right now has among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics.” And within our own country, there are constantly legal challenges between different corporations striving to determine who’s “responsible” for this environmental catastrophe.

Meanwhile, conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh called climate change “one of the most preposterous hoaxes in the history of the planet.”

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But let’s look at where we are now. Most of you reading this have probably been stuck inside for 80-something days now—working from home, only driving for essential errands, not eating out, and so forth. Even if your life doesn’t exactly fit this description, it’s safe to say your lifestyle changed when COVID-19 hit and lockdowns were put in place.

Stay-at-home orders have had a huge impact on the transportation sector. Air traffic was down by 41% in the last two weeks of March, compared to the same time last year. And every metro area in the U.S. experienced a road traffic decline of at least 53% since the beginning of March.

One result of all this staying home?

In a matter of weeks, skies in notoriously polluted cities began to completely clear up. The International Energy Agency estimates that the global lockdown will reduce CO2 emissions by 2.6 billion metric tons this year. By early April, CO2 emissions had already decreased by 17% relative to the average 2019 global CO2 levels, and in individual countries, at their peak, emissions decreased by an average of 26%.

And climate change skeptics still deny that human activities are harming our earth.

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This positive change in our air quality will likely be short-lived. It will begin reversing as businesses reopen and stay-at-home orders are lifted. And with the miraculous economic rebound that supposedly lies ahead, we are sure to raise our emissions right back to where they were…

Unless we use this experience to change our ways.

With 7.8 billion people on the planet commuting back and forth to work every day, flying around the country for business meetings, buying stuff we don’t need as nothing but a pastime, and expecting meat at every meal, of course we’re going to keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere at unsustainable rates.

But what if those of us who can kept on working from home some or all of the time, moved business meetings to Zoom permanently, stopped buying crap we don’t need, and took pressure off the meat industry that has been hit so hard during this pandemic by moving our diets down the food chain? And what if we did all of that while also funding domestic and international family planning programs at the level needed for everyone around the world to have access to high-quality, affordable, voluntary reproductive health services, including modern contraception and safe abortion?

I’d say we’d be on our way to solving the climate crisis.

We all play a role, every single one of us. And whether or not we care about our carbon footprint or the harm its causing, well that’s another argument. The bottom line is the reality that this pandemic has made so blatantly obvious: Climate change is our fault, we are the only ones who can stop it, and we know exactly how to do so.

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