Mar 20, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Side effect of a pandemic: A brief glimpse at cleaner skies and water

Photos: Images from Twitter (@Kaveri and @soandso), NASA

As millions of humans stay home around the world, pollution is alleviating — temporarily.

Why it matters: Images of clear skies over China and California, or fish swimming in in Venice’s canals, are a glimpse of what it might look like if we took better care of the Earth. But, as much as people seem to love sharing those images now, none of it's likely to last.

Reality check: Much of this temporary environmental reprieve will diminish once the economy picks back up again.

  • And of course, no one should want to curb pollution and tackle climate change via a deadly global pandemic, given the grave health and economic impacts the crisis is creating.

But one expert says images like these could instill in people more appreciation for clean skies and water, and motivate them to retain some of that even as we hop back into polluting cars, boats and airplanes again.

“This unfortunate massive slowdown in our global economy is also providing a glimpse of what nature could look like with clean waters in Venice and clean skies in China.”
— Valentina Kretzschmar, director of corporate research, consultancy Wood Mackenzie

One level deeper: Locking down large parts of China to contain spread of the novel coronavirus could have saved nearly 80,000 lives by reducing pollution in those areas, a new study found.

Go deeper: Coronavirus shows how slow-moving climate change really is

Go deeper

10 ways coronavirus is changing energy and climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The novel coronavirus, upending our world as we know it, is also changing how we consume energy and address climate change.

Driving the news: The various impacts are occurring both now and into the future. Most changes don’t bode well for acting on climate change and transitioning to cleaner energy.

In photos: Top destinations before and after coronavirus outbreak

The Eiffel Tower in Paris. Photos: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images; Stephane Cardinale-Corbis via Getty Images

The U.S. travel and tourism sector is set for a drop of 6 million international visitors because of the novel coronavirus, costing $19 billion in spending this year, per a report by Tourism Economics. "The present declines appear likely to be worse than what the US experienced in 2003 [after the SARS outbreak]," the report states.

The big picture: The global outlook is just as bleak. The report was released on March 11, two days after Italy announced a nationwide lockdown after a surge in cases. Since then, several countries have followed suit, European travelers face U.S. travel restrictions and the CDC has recommended gatherings of 50 or more people be postponed or canceled for eight weeks. The outbreak's impact is evident at many top travel destinations, where once-bustling hubs have been transformed into virtual ghost towns.

See photosArrowMar 17, 2020 - Health

How climate change and wildlife influence the coronavirus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The good news is, climate change is not directly at play with the coronavirus. The bad news: we humans are still root drivers in pandemics like this one.

Driving the news: Buying, selling and consuming wild animals, such as at the Wuhan, China, market where this novel coronavirus is believed to have originated, is increasingly spreading deadly infectious diseases, experts say.

Go deeperArrowMar 27, 2020 - Science