The fight against pollution is stronger than ever. A tremendous health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the urgency of immediate action towards combating environmental issues. In the first year of the pandemic, the air quality improved significantly, as carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 7%, a study from Natural Climate Change shows. This translates into 2.6 billion tons, which is a substantial reduction.

Although the coronavirus pandemic caused worldwide disruption in the health system and people’s everyday lives, some silver linings were visible. As governments had to enforce restrictions, such as country-wide lockdowns, this positively influenced the environment. But as restrictions have started to ease, so have the benefits of a lockdown. With traffic resumed, carbon emissions have started to increase again. Not only that, but they might reach higher levels than those before the pandemic.

It’s time for long-term actions

The temporary situation of global lockdowns, while it has improved the environment during a year, isn't a long-term solution. Such drastic measures provoked by a pandemic, like putting a stop on traveling, closing down businesses, and severely limiting movement, are not realistic. World economies are still recovering from these measures, so the actions must be productive in the long term.

Digital tools replace unnecessary travel

Research has shown that transportation is the most significant pollutant in the U.S., accounting for 29% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions . Before the pandemic, many people were traveling by car or plane for work purposes. This is a major contributor to climate change. But the good news is that it can be heavily reduced.

The pandemic forced many businesses to turn to remote working, and people started to work from home. Although difficult initially, as some people found it challenging to remain motivated and productive under extreme circumstances, some benefits could be seen. This has highlighted how traveling to work conferences can be replaced with virtual video calls. What's more, many industries offer the flexibility of working from home on a more regular basis. Once companies have realized that they can maintain and even increase productivity when working remotely, they changed their approach. Hence, businesses have either shifted to work-from-home entirely or permitted employees to work remotely more days in the week. Not having to drive or commute to work is beneficial for the environment.

Emissions have to decrease altogether – but how?

Decreased gas emissions for one year are not enough to help the environment. So, although in 2020 lower gas emissions helped the environment, more action is needed to reduce greenhouse gases every year. For global warming to stop reaching threatening levels, it is time to enforce actions to allow for a constant decrease in emissions.

Yet another aspect of the pandemic has revealed that people’s behavior is difficult to change. When it comes to changing habits, people can be extremely reluctant. However, the advantage is that some people have become more aware, and they have seen this health crisis as an opportunity to change.

But how can everyone contribute towards a cleaner environment? The overwhelming information and the pressure of changing one’s behavior can be counterproductive. So, the key is to start with smaller steps that still make the difference.

Seeing how cars seriously pollute the air, there are things that people can do. As much as it helps to drive your car less, it is also vital to take care of it properly. Not cleaning a vehicle regularly or neglecting the importance of regular car maintenance are both contributors to pollution. As experts from Parts Geek explain, "When a car is not functioning adequately, it will produce more emissions, and therefore pollute more. So, consistent and constant car check-ups can have less of a negative impact on the environment.”

People are turning to electric cars

As people have realized the significant impact driving vehicles with internal combustion engines can have on the environment, they started to pay more attention to better alternatives. As a result, the demand for electric cars has increased. From a 65% surge in sales in 2018, high demand is expected again in the following years, after an uncertain year due to the pandemic.

Electric cars have batteries that need to be constantly charged. Given that they are functioning on electricity, these vehicles are a healthier alternative for the environment. Compared to engines working on internal combustion, electric cars do not emit harmful toxic gases that raise the temperatures in the atmosphere. Therefore, these vehicles running on electricity do not contribute to global warming.

In the U.S., 7 in 10 adult citizens are looking at purchasing electric cars in the future. However, their decision to invest in an electric vehicle is influenced by whether the government will fund and provide enough plug-in charging stations, which is still a concern for many.

Governments need to act

Indeed, the measures needed to fight a health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic were extreme. There is no doubt that, in order to overcome such an obstacle, governments needed to take drastic actions. However, the silver lining of these extreme measures that the pandemic has shown is that most governments can mobilize effectively and promptly in times of crisis.

What this shows is that the fight against climate change will probably become a top priority. So far, governments around the world have taken little action towards combatting environmental issues. Yet, the pandemic has highlighted the urgency of global warming, not just for individuals but also for governments.

With the threat of climate change being real, global consequences are imminent. For this reason, government officials from U.S., China, and European Union lawmakers are all committed to implement strategies and take necessary action towards protecting the environment and reducing emissions. As the world is slowly recovering from the pandemic and people prepare to go back to life as they knew it before, it is crucial not to ignore the need for a cleaner environment. For that to happen, governments everywhere will need to set specific targets to tackle global warming.