You are currently viewing The Environmental Benefits of the Coronavirus (COVID 19)
Magnified image of the novel Coronavirus ( Image Source UN Environment)

The Environmental Benefits of the Coronavirus (COVID 19)

By David Okul
April 29, 2020

The COVID 19 global pandemic has affected all aspects of human life.  The virus has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the world over, not to mention millions of people already infected with the virus. As of 29th April 2020, the virus had claimed more than 218,000 lives across the globe, according to figures released by WHO (World Health Organization).

Worse still, COVID 19 has led to massive closure of industries, thus resulting in skyrocketing unemployment rates. In some areas, food prices are at their highest.  Amid the gloom, there are various environmental benefits of the Coronavirus. Some of the most conspicuous positive environmental benefits range from an increase in air, water, and soil quality to a favorable framework for environmental management.

1.      A significant reduction in air pollution

To combat the pandemic, governments across the planet have adopted public health measures such as lockdowns, quarantines, and stay-at-home orders. With huge populations forced to remain in their homes, factories closed, airlines closed, and road traffics reduced to their minimum, air pollution levels have dwindled significantly over hundreds of years.

Due to reduced air pollution, air quality has improved dramatically, especially in major world cities. The Chinese province of Hubei, where the virus outbreak started in late 2019, recorded the first case of reduced pollution. This reduction occurred after the Chinese government introduced a lockdown in the entire province.

With COVID 19, there are a handful of planes traveling on the sky. Moreover, there are fewer vehicles on the roads. These developments translate into less air pollution. With air pollution levels at their lowest, the world’s ozone layer isn’t vulnerable to environmental hazards of air pollution.

2.      A reduction in greenhouse emissions

COVID 19 has led to a reduction of green gas emissions, particularly in highly industrialized nations because of the slowdown of economic activities worldwide. Countries such as China have recorded their lowest levels of emissions in decades.

As governments order closure of schools, industries, and factories, all of which contribute to a sharp rise in emissions, global gas emissions have dropped by 5% according to environmental experts at Global Carbon Project (GCP).

While the decline in green gas emissions as a result of COVID 19 may be temporary, the world is witnessing a sharp reduction in emissions over the decades. Furthermore, green gas emissions will continue dropping throughout the pandemic.

3.      Cleaner waters

Whereas COVID 19 has dramatically reduced the number of tourists in various world’s leading beaches, the waters in the world’s seas, oceans, and rivers are now cleaner than they used to be. In Italy, the canal waters in Venice are so clean such that fish can be spotted easily. There are just a handful of ships traveling on major global seaways. Again, the volume of waste disposed  in the seas and oceans has plummeted significantly. This reduced waste means less water pollution.

With a reduction in water pollution, water is cleaner and safe for consumption. A decrease in water pollutions translates into fewer water pollutants. As such, marine life is under minimal threat from water pollution.  In India, for instance, sea turtles have started arriving at the country’s eastern coast to lay eggs after the government issued a nationwide lockdown that saw millions staying at home following the Coronavirus outbreak.

Environmental benefits of coronavirus

4.      Nations will quickly meet their climate goals under the Paris Climate Accord.

Pundits claim that most nations will be able to meet their climate goals in accordance to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, courtesy of the COVID 19 pandemic. Sectors such as production and transportation have come to a halt after the Coronavirus outbreak.

Consequently, the virus is driving nations towards reducing their emissions as envisaged in various global climate agreements.  Simply put, the virus outbreak has forced countries to lower their emissions hence prompting them to meet their international climate change obligations.

5.      An overall decline in global energy consumption rates

As millions of people are under strict lockdowns/curfews throughout the world, energy consumption rates have fallen sharply in decades. Energy consumption contributes significantly to the annual global gas emissions.

Although domestic energy consumption has soared significantly after the virus outbreak, industrial energy consumption rates have dropped dramatically at the same time. Industrial energy consumption is responsible for over a third of gas emissions in the world.

With the overall decline in global energy consumption, the world will benefit from reduced emissions, albeit temporarily. This reprieve has changed the global environment outlook for the better.

6.      An overall positive effect on the global climate

The measures taken by governments to combat the spread of COVID 19 have a short term positive effect on the global environment.  With vast populations barred from leaving home and travel bans imposed on major airlines, the environmental consequences brought about by such restrictive measures will give the world the much-needed respite.

A global reduction in gas emissions and pollution will contribute positively to the global climate. The pandemic has reversed some of the adverse effects caused by the infamous climate change. Even after the pandemic is over, governments will have a clear picture of the measures they ought to put in place to address the suppression of the climate.

Overly, the pandemic has led to a massive scale-down of industrial production and energy use. These two have, for decades, been the most significant contributors to climate change. Without them, the global climate will change for the better. But to maintain these benefits in the long-run, governments will have to take planned approaches to eliminate unnecessary energy consumption and industrial production after the pandemic.

7.      Closure of wet Markets

The wet market of Wuhan is the suspected source of Coronavirus. As such, authorities have stopped the operations of various wet markets following the devastating impacts of the COVID 19. For many years, conservationists have pushed for the closure of such markets. One of the most significant environmental benefit of the coronavirus is realizing stopping wet markets is possible.


The Coronavirus pandemic may have brought misery to the world. While the deadly virus has visibly brought everything on the planet to a halt, the environment seems to be the biggest beneficiary of the pandemic. Nonetheless, these environmental benefits that have been brought about by COVID 19 may only be temporary. As such, nations should make changes that will retain these benefits even after the end of the pandemic.

David Okul is an environmental management professional with over 10 years experience on donor projects, forestry, and community-based natural resources management. When not working on my full-time job, I spend my time writing for Silvica on a variety of topics.