Pandemic Having Unintended Benefits On Environment, ND Professors Say

Apr 22, 2020

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Credit JOHN GREIM / LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

Businesses have closed, people are staying home, and life has come to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus crisis. On this Earth Day, there may be unintended benefits the pandemic is having on the environment.

Gary Lamberti is a professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. He says there’s been a drastic decline in carbon emissions with fewer cars on the road and fewer planes in the sky. That means cleaner air, water, and soil, at least temporarily.

"This has happened because of unfortunate circumstances," Lamberti says. "But really we may not like all elements of reductions in energy use but living our lives more simply and reducing our consumption is what we all need to do to avoid the inevitable impacts of climate change.”

Alan Hamlet is an associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. He says there are some lessons to be learned from the current fight against the pandemic that can be applied to the fight against climate change.

"We become very dependent when we isolate ourselves on virtual reality kinds of technology, and that might be one of the responses we see to climate change as well that people live more and more indoors to escape the harsh climate.”

But he says there’s one major difference, too.

“Climate change is a very long term problem that doesn’t go away and we can’t go backwards with the climate," Hamlet says. "So that is very different from the response to what may prove to be a relatively short lifespan of this disease.”

Hamlet says officials need to act early and aggressively in order to curb climate change, just like some did in many cases with the pandemic.

Contact Annacaroline at acaruso@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @AnnacarolineC16

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