How has the pandemic affected the environment?

by | Apr 18, 2021

Being welcomed into 2021 with thunderous showers and low temperatures, many of us enjoyed sleeping in under our warm blankets and finally being able to flaunt our cute hoodies that have been sitting in our closets for the longest time.

While the first two weeks of the year were pretty shiok, the relentless rainfall has also served to be a cause for concern towards the ongoing climate crisis.

As we enjoyed the cool weather, the reality is that this is a product of our human activities that cause carbon emissions, which (you guessed it) leads to global warming.

And how we have so quickly transitioned back into the familiar humid weather is only evidence of how destructive we have been towards the environment.

I shan’t delve too much into the science stuff here, but I have found @thisisaudsomee’s infographic below rather clear and succinct in helping us to understand this phenomenon.

As much as hitting amongst our highest rainfall in the past 39 years should be a cause of alarm, the truth is that the climate crisis is not news to us.

As a matter of fact, what would be more alarming is not keeping up to date with and taking action to minimise the damage that we, as a human race, are causing to the space we occupy and the lives we reside amongst.

For starters, let us take a little step back into 2020 and identify the impacts the pandemic left on the environment. (I know – terrifying and dreadful – but while we refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of 2020, we still have to acknowledge the problems that it has accentuated, including and especially the climate crisis).

Electricity usage worsened climate change

Much of 2020 was defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, which served to bring light to several deep-seated problems in our society, such as income disparity, racism, xenophobia, ableism and domestic violence.

Unsurprisingly, it has also accentuated the climate crisis.

When it comes to COVID-19, most of us would remember undergoing a lockdown, having to work, study or simply be at home.

While the reduction of vehicles on the road may seem like good news for the environment, the reality is that staying at home actually caused residential electricity usage to skyrocket.

To put it simply, it is more efficient to centrally control the temperature in a single office building, rather than having all staff members do so in each of their own homes.

2.) Greenhouse gases

More cars lead to more greenhouse gases

Furthermore, with social distancing being so critical now more than ever, people have minimised the use of public transport, and shifted towards greater car usage instead.

Consequently, this could lead to a resurgence in oil consumption, which would necessitate the burning of fossil fuels, contributing significantly to global warming.

The consequences would be severe, especially with how the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has highlighted, “Governments are planning to produce about 50% more fossil fuel in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C and 120% more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C”.

Excessive energy usage is but one of the many contributors of the climate crisis, and we see how, through the pandemic, this problem can potentially be exacerbated.

3.) Lack of significant action

Greta thunberg at a Climate rally

On top of this, the governments’ priorities amidst this pandemic also serve to impact the global environmental movement.

Just a year prior, youth climate activist, Greta Thunberg, was at the forefront of the first Global Strike for Climate.

However, governmental efforts have been largely insignificant in tackling this global crisis.

As such, with the COVID-19 pandemic sending the world into panic, the state’s attention was further divided away from the climate crisis.

The incomprehensible environmental negligence has been especially prevalent in the United States of America (the U.S.), with the administration suspending the enforcement of air and water pollution regulations and put on hold the need for environmental review on new infrastructure projects, amongst other environmentally-detrimental responses.

Governmental incompetence hence serves as another key contributor to the climate crisis amidst the pandemic.

We have a together and east coast plan

Speaking of governance, with greater social awareness and a fresh batch of first-time voters, the 2020 General Elections (GE2020) witnessed interesting discussions about the environment.

Interestingly, GE2020 witnessed a surge in attention paid to party manifestos, a phenomenon that is unfamiliar to many who have voted before.

We shall let the scorecard below speak for itself in terms of each party’s position towards climate issues in the run-up to the elections, alongside the Green Charter that Red Dot United (RDU), Singapore’s newest political party, had released.

Overall, we see that the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) seems to be the most promising in its position towards the climate crisis.

Nonetheless, all parties still had massive areas for improvement, “especially their positions on the fossil fuel industry”.

We also see how public attitude towards the environment has greatly weighed in during GE2020.

Community spaces like Neighbourhood Greenwatch have been initiated for voters to push their candidates for more significant commitments in the fight against climate change.

New year, new me

Now that we are 4 months into the new year, we have to be conscious of how this time transition does not simply eradicate the deep-seated problems that fuel the climate crisis.

In order to truly move on from 2020, to start anew, we have to leave behind its problems by taking action now.

Whether it is through raising awareness, changing certain habits, or writing to our ministers, we all have a part to play in combating the climate crisis – leaving it at the status quo would only serve to implode ourselves and our Earth further.