During the beginning months of quarantine, we have seen how climate change, in terms of air quality, has become seemingly better. This is largely due in part to the fact that the majority of people are using transportation, such as cars and airplanes, less. An article from “The Atlantic” states that scientists saw a reduction in particulate matter, ranging from the most dangerous, PM 2.5, to larger particles, called PM10. The smaller particles, PM2.5, are due to vehicles, factories, and burning fossil fuels. Particulate matter like this is the worst form of air pollution because it makes its way into your lungs and even your blood. This can lead to heart attacks, bronchitis, cardiac arrhythmias, cancer, and eventually death. Due to children’s developing brains and bodies, and elderly people’s inability to recover from the harmful effects of air pollution, they are more susceptible to it, and more vulnerable if contracted. So, this “likely saved the lives of 4,000 young children and 73,000 elderly adults in China over two months this year.” Satellites have even detected a decrease in “a common air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide.” Furthermore, due to fewer cars being on the roads, there has been less roadkill, causing formerly endangered animal populations to bounce back.
This shows us that it is possible to reverse the effects of climate change, as we see air pollution decrease and wildlife thrive; however, only if we start turning things around now. These positive changes will only be temporary if we slowly return to our regular lives.
Even though some aspects are seemingly better at the moment, others are getting worse. For example, the fires that have become a yearly occurrence in California and Oregon are destroying homes, roads, businesses. They have become more severe than ever before. Another catastrophe is the destruction of the Amazon forest. According to an article by Britannica, illegal loggers have cut down 464 square miles of the Amazon Rainforest between January and April. If it were to be completely destroyed, the same article by Britannica predicts it would “condemn millions of living species to extinction and destroy their habitats,” as well as add a tremendous amount of CO2 to the atmosphere. This, combined with other disasters, would entirely run over the positive changes in the air quality that we have seen.
The harsh reality of climate change has been ignored for decades, and we are now starting to see its most devastating effects. If this continues, by 2100, the world’s temperatures will rise by 4°C. The result of these temperatures would be calamitous. An article by the Guardian says coral reefs and plankton will all die due to the “rising acidity and algae, starving the oceans of oxygen,” and, as a consequence, larger sea life will start dying as well. The article also says sea levels will rise by two meters due to ice melting. Rising ocean levels would force people to move inland, and also lead to food instability. As people move inland due to the disasters that climate change presents they would be forced to cross the country’s borders. This among other things would increase tensions and potentially lead to war if a country refuses to take them in.
To prevent this from becoming a reality, we must start making changes now. There are many things that you can do to make a positive impact. Voting is crucial because, at the moment, our president does not believe in climate change. He has “rejected higher air quality standards,” believes “science doesn’t know about climate change,”, revoked 100 environmental protections of air and water, and took the US out of the Paris agreement on climate change, according to an article by The Washington Post and Politico. Contacting your representative with an email clearly outlining the topic you wish to discuss, and what you’d like done about it (i.e., to vote for or oppose a legislation regarding climate change) is also an option. Lifestyle changes such as going completely waste-free while optimal may be out of reach for some people. So, in that case, doing things such as investing in renewables, buying in bulk, purchasing solar panels or different eco friendly alternative fuels if possible, biking, or using the bus instead of driving are all great choices.
Though these changes will undoubtedly take a lot of effort, and will not happen overnight, it is 100% necessary to ensure our future generations’ survival. I believe we should have hope. Through a collective effort of hard work and determination, these positive changes that we see now due to the pandemic can slowly grow and become permanent, and help reverse climate change before it is too late.