Coronavirus: a solution to climate change?

The temperature of the last few weeks has made it difficult for students to plan their wardrobe on a daily basis. Some days will require heavy coats, hats and gloves, while others call for raincoats, umbrellas, rain boots and warm weather attire. The latest trend in weather calls for spring wear, but usually, around this time of year, students would be enjoying the benefits of sleeping in on snow days. 

This drastic difference in the weather pattern can be attributed to climate change. 

Despite the negative connotation of the Coronavirus, would you believe it to be a factor in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that accelerate the harmful effects of climate change in parts of the world? Well, believe it. 

According to Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, Authors of “The Coronavirus and Carbon Emissions” — published in the New York Times      — as a result of shutting down factories, refineries and suspending flights across the country since at least 77,000 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, China’s CO2 emissions over the past month have been approximately 25% lower than during this same time last year. That percentage may seem like a slight alteration, but China is such an impactful polluter that even 25% is significant. In fact, the decline is roughly equal to the amount of CO2 that the state of New York puts out into the atmosphere in a full year (about 150 million metric tons).

Should we be appeased by this news? Can we find solace and security in the knowledge that through all the darkness of the disaster that is the coronavirus outbreak, the one silver lining, if you can call it that, is a decrease in a pollutant that has abused our atmosphere for so long?

“Climate change is a problem and the fact that the actions of China shutting down a couple of factories temporarily has made such an impressive impact should be alarming to us and show us where our true problems lie,” said Emily Loutraris, sophomore elementary education major. Loutraris is interpreting this CO2 decline as being the evidence that we need to prove that the change that we need to enforce needs to start with factories and transportation systems, since, as depicted by this current situation, that is where the significant change will come from. 

As Rider University continues to prioritize the safety of its students, we are also inadvertently decreasing our CO2 emissions. Rider University has been sending out emails with coronavirus updates and its pertinence to our campus. 

“Rider University is closely monitoring the rapidly evolving worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus and is preparing our campuses accordingly,” according to a March 4th email from University Communications. It has also suspended all “outbound university-sponsored travel to countries with a CDC Level three travel notice.” These level three countries are China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. This suspended travel notice will serve to reduce CO2 emissions on Rider’s annual greenhouse gas emissions reporting, even though this was not the intended goal or a desirable situation. The travel suspension will disappoint many students who planned on having a once in a lifetime study abroad experience this spring. While the carbon savings expected with the decline of international travel is somewhat positive, we must find a way to lower carbon emissions that can alleviate climate change that does not involve a potentially harmful outbreak.

Victoria Harripersad 

Eco-Rep

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