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Will Coronavirus Affect Climate Change

Our world as we knew it only a few months ago has changed. Health officials worldwide are monitoring a respiratory illness outbreak caused by a new coronavirus, named “COVID-19,” that originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic is first and foremost an issue of human health and safety.

The leaders of all nations around the world implemented (and still do) measurements - more or less immediately - to slow down and ultimately stop the spread of the rapidly growing threat to humanity; now a third of the global population is in lockdown, others are in quarantine, working from home, holding distance from each other, public events are cancelled and non-essential shops closing their doors for the time being. Looks like the whole world is “slowing down” the usual activities. There is a small positive side-effect: as people had to change their everyday behaviors and patterns to contain or avoid the virus with some subtle effects on the environment.

Since the economic activity has slowed down worldwide with aeroplanes grounded, people locked indoors not using their cars, factories shut and so on, the air quality over Europe and China has temporarily improved. For climate scientists, the way millions of people around the world have changed their behaviour clearly shows the possibility to do the same to slow down climate change. Will we realise that only collectively the ever growing climate crises can be halted?!

Satellite imagery showed a reduction in the levels of nitrogen dioxide - caused by cars, power plants and industrial facilities. The agencies compared the change before the lockdown in Wuhan on 23 January 2020 and during the quarantine between 10-25 February, 2020 and found concentrations of the gas fell significantly. The reduction was first noticed in Wuhan but eventually spread across the country and was estimated between 10 to 30 percent.

For NASA researchers, this fast change was sort of unexpected.

“In (January and February) of 2020, NO2 values in eastern and central China were significantly lower (from 10 to 30 percent lower) than what is normally observed for this time period,” according to NASA. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center air quality researcher Dr. Fei Liu said in the post by NASA on its website that “This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer… I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize the spread of the virus.”

In a interesting article from the Guardian, 25 May 2020 (Damian Carrington Environment editor @dpcarrington) wrote:

"Nature is sending us a message! Destruction of wildlife and the climate crisis is hurting humanity, with Covid-19 a ‘clear warning shot’, say experts.

Nature is sending us a message with the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis, according to the UN’s environment chief, Inger Andersen.

Andersen said humanity was placing too many pressures on the natural world with damaging consequences, and warned that failing to take care of the planet meant not taking care of ourselves. Leading scientists also said the Covid-19 outbreak was a “clear warning shot”, given that far more deadly diseases existed in wildlife, and that today’s civilisation was “playing with fire”. They said it was almost always human behaviour that caused diseases to spill over into humans. To prevent further outbreaks, the experts said, both global heating and the destruction of the natural world for farming, mining and housing have to end, as both drive wildlife into contact with people.

They also urged authorities to put an end to live animal markets – which they called an “ideal mixing bowl” for disease – and the illegal global animal trade.

Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said the immediate priority was to protect people from the coronavirus and prevent its spread. “But our long-term response must tackle habitat and biodiversity loss,” she added.

“Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people,” she told the Guardian, explaining that 75% of all emerging infectious diseases come from wildlife."

Deforestation in Indonesia - only one example from many around the world !

“The more we hunt wildlife, the more we come in contact with new environments and the more we increase the likelihood of us being exposed to these viruses,” explained Peter Ben Embarek of the World Health Organization’s International Food Safety Authorities Network. “It’s clear that poaching and hunting endangered species has to stop. It’s totally unacceptable. I think everybody in all authorities of the world are in agreement with that.”

Asian Wildlife Market

Easier said than done! Hopefully the Covid-19 pandemic has finally made us recognise that the illegal wildlife trade poses an intolerable danger to public health. An increased effort to stop the illegal wildlife-trade worldwide is the only option to protect our health in the future. But given humans have short memories, once the danger has passed public concern will turn to the next big problem. Covid-19 clearly represents an exceptional opportunity to combat the wildlife trade, and ensure that animal-borne diseases do not mutate and cross over to humans. But only time will tell whether this opportunity will be taken or put off once again until the emergence of the next pandemic poses an even bigger global threat.

To all our readers around the world, we wish you well in those times of uncertainty. Stay safe and healthy! From all of us at


Further reading: Illicit Wildlife Trade Bites Back: Coronavirus Origins


The Guardian, March 2020 (viewed 27.03.2020)

NASA Earthobservatory, 2020 (viewed 27.03.2020)


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