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Covid 19 and the Environment:


beecee
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 Is this covid 19 virus helping our environment in anyway?

Certainly, countries in lockdown are having less cars on the road, as people are working from home...but is this having the effect of more heating and/or cooling in the home?

My own state has fast-tracked building projects, such as a much needed second Airport. Is/will this fast-tracking lead to some disregard for certain protection and emission policies?

Will we need to wait a couple of years to gauge any overall effect?

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Don’t have a link handy, but early in lockdown there was a noticeable drop in soot and smog, much from airlines, but while the rate of CO2 growth had slowed, amount of CO2 still went up. Airlines are flying again now too. Big issue is waste from PPE… lots of masks and gloves etc in landfills. 

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18 minutes ago, iNow said:

Don’t have a link handy, but early in lockdown there was a noticeable drop in soot and smog, much from airlines, but while the rate of CO2 growth had slowed, amount of CO2 still went up. Airlines are flying again now too. Big issue is waste from PPE… lots of masks and gloves etc in landfills. 

Yeah good point re the PPE and masks and stuff. Where I am they are starting to crack down hard on careless people discarding their masks willy nilly anywhere, as they should.

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https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0797-x

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Daily global CO2 emissions decreased by –17% (–11 to –25% for ±1σ) by early April 2020 compared with the mean 2019 levels, just under half from changes in surface transport. At their peak, emissions in individual countries decreased by –26% on average. The impact on 2020 annual emissions depends on the duration of the confinement, with a low estimate of –4% (–2 to –7%) if prepandemic conditions return by mid-June, and a high estimate of –7% (–3 to –13%) if some restrictions remain worldwide until the end of 2020. 

 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00090-3
 

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After rising steadily for decades, global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 6.4%, or 2.3 billion tonnes, in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic squelched economic and social activities worldwide, according to new data on daily fossil fuel emissions. The decline is significant — roughly double Japan’s yearly emissions — but smaller than many climate researchers expected given the scale of the pandemic, and is not expected to last once the virus is brought under control.

The United States contributed the most to the global dip, with a nearly 13% decrease in its emissions, due mostly to a sharp decline in vehicle transportation that began with lockdowns in March and continued as the pandemic escalated at the end of the year. Globally, the energy sector most affected by pandemic lockdowns and restrictions was aviation, where emissions fell 48% from their 2019 total.

 

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  • 5 months later...

The extra plastic waste is certainly a concern. Not just from the protective gear, but from all sources. 

Fewer people going to work downtown, while bad for the coffee and street food vendors, also reduces the garbage from takeout food. At the same time, however, people are ordering takeout food at home, and ordering groceries and prepackaged foods online.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8166460/

In the first few months, our supermarkets gave out plastic shopping bags instead of letting reusable into the store. When it became widely known that the risk of transmission on surfaces is minimal, they went back to encouraging customers to bring their bags and pack their own groceries (a great improvement, to my mind; both safer and less wasteful).

Other changes, like air quality, have already been mentioned. Here is a good overview

Quote

This study indicates that, the pandemic situation significantly improves air quality in different cities across the world, reduces GHGs emission, lessens water pollution and noise, and reduces the pressure on the tourist destinations, which may assist with the restoration of the ecological system. In addition, there are also some negative consequences of COVID-19, such as increase of medical waste, haphazard use and disposal of disinfectants, mask, and gloves; and burden of untreated wastes continuously endangering the environment.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7498239/

What we don't know, and won't for a long time, is how the pattern of work, transport, industry, domestic arrangements and social activity will be affected in the long term. ATM, rents are out of control in North America https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-05/tenants-struggle-with-red-hot-u-s-rental-market

and property prices are still increasing as well https://blog.remax.ca/canadian-housing-market-outlook/

Quote

Single-detached homes experienced the biggest price gains when comparing 2021* to 2020 data, rising between 6.8 and 27.3 per cent across 27 markets surveyed in the report. RE/MAX brokers and agents expect this trend to continue into the fall, driven by strong demand by young families

So there will almost certainly be a building boom, with all its pollution and waste products.

There will also be a major shift in the patterns of industry and transport. I'm hoping for more local production and small independent operations - especially in food and building material, but it's very far from clear how politics and disease will affect our decisions over the next couple of years.

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  • 7 months later...
On 8/24/2021 at 1:16 AM, beecee said:

Yeah good point re the PPE and masks and stuff. Where I am they are starting to crack down hard on careless people discarding their masks willy nilly anywhere, as they should.

Yes discarded masks are causing problems world wide I think given there are probably billions used over the pandemic and some not disposed of properly. 

On 2/23/2022 at 3:54 PM, Peterkin said:

The extra plastic waste is certainly a concern. Not just from the protective gear, but from all sources. 

Fewer people going to work downtown, while bad for the coffee and street food vendors, also reduces the garbage from takeout food. At the same time, however, people are ordering takeout food at home, and ordering groceries and prepackaged foods online.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8166460/

In the first few months, our supermarkets gave out plastic shopping bags instead of letting reusable into the store. When it became widely known that the risk of transmission on surfaces is minimal, they went back to encouraging customers to bring their bags and pack their own groceries (a great improvement, to my mind; both safer and less wasteful).

Other changes, like air quality, have already been mentioned. Here is a good overview

What we don't know, and won't for a long time, is how the pattern of work, transport, industry, domestic arrangements and social activity will be affected in the long term. ATM, rents are out of control in North America https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-05/tenants-struggle-with-red-hot-u-s-rental-market

and property prices are still increasing as well https://blog.remax.ca/canadian-housing-market-outlook/

So there will almost certainly be a building boom, with all its pollution and waste products.

There will also be a major shift in the patterns of industry and transport. I'm hoping for more local production and small independent operations - especially in food and building material, but it's very far from clear how politics and disease will affect our decisions over the next couple of years.

More people are working from home,  which also means they are heating homes during the winter,   so that may have an impact,  this could be mitigated by the current fuel costs, going up, which may force people to find other places to work remotely rather than at home, or just return to the office.  Also running computers / printers at home,  seems that cost of INk is having problems too,  I would assume most offices uses laser printers,  which are more efficient, and can print more per toner unit too.

I guess there are a lot of factors.

Seems that since the lockdowns have eased or ended people are going back to their old ways.

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3 hours ago, paulsutton said:

Seems that since the lockdowns have eased or ended people are going back to their old ways.

They certainly seem to be doing so where I live. Indeed, the number of new cases is well down from the spike in July and the expected fall surge hasn't shown up - yet. Only a few people, customers or staff, at the stores where I shop are wearing masks anymore, though the plexiglass barriers are still up to protect cashiers. I don't expect those ever to thrown away, until the store itself is demolished of remodelled.  Everyone stopped wearing rubber gloves quite early on, which was a relief. They were rather appalling: one person I know discarded three pairs at each outing. I don't see a lot of those flimsy blue surgical masks in the gutter anymore, either. I've kept a few with viable elastic for mixing peat moss into my potting soil or sanding wood; in public, I have been wearing N95 with fabric over the front - my current favourite is a parrot beak; small children are amused by it. They're durable and washable.

Nevertheless, a lot of people have continued to work from home, which tends to reduce waste overall - with inflation, crazy gas prices and rent hikes, they simply can't afford so much takeout. But they do order things from amazon rather than buy them in person, which tends to increase waste. We've bought a number of items that way and I faithfully kept the cardboard boxes, packing paper, plastic bags and bubble envelopes. It's only the last I haven't been able to repurpose. I used one to hold dead batteries for the recycle bin. At this rate, I need to live another 25 years to use them all.    

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7 hours ago, Peterkin said:

They certainly seem to be doing so where I live. Indeed, the number of new cases is well down from the spike in July and the expected fall surge hasn't shown up - yet. Only a few people, customers or staff, at the stores where I shop are wearing masks anymore, though the plexiglass barriers are still up to protect cashiers. I don't expect those ever to thrown away, until the store itself is demolished of remodelled.  Everyone stopped wearing rubber gloves quite early on, which was a relief. They were rather appalling: one person I know discarded three pairs at each outing. I don't see a lot of those flimsy blue surgical masks in the gutter anymore, either. I've kept a few with viable elastic for mixing peat moss into my potting soil or sanding wood; in public, I have been wearing N95 with fabric over the front - my current favourite is a parrot beak; small children are amused by it. They're durable and washable.

Nevertheless, a lot of people have continued to work from home, which tends to reduce waste overall - with inflation, crazy gas prices and rent hikes, they simply can't afford so much takeout. But they do order things from amazon rather than buy them in person, which tends to increase waste. We've bought a number of items that way and I faithfully kept the cardboard boxes, packing paper, plastic bags and bubble envelopes. It's only the last I haven't been able to repurpose. I used one to hold dead batteries for the recycle bin. At this rate, I need to live another 25 years to use them all.    

In some cases the screens stay up to protect staff from abuse.

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6 hours ago, paulsutton said:

In some cases the screens stay up to protect staff from abuse.

We don't see much of that in our town; you're more likely to get stuck behind an acquaintance of the cashier who needs to impart urgent gossip than an irate customer.   There is an elevated level rudeness in summer, but the vacationers are gone now. However, we have lost over 30 health-care workers to Covid and I don't know how many to burnout, in a rural area with a chronic shortage of doctors. Now, nurses, too. 

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16 hours ago, Peterkin said:

They certainly seem to be doing so where I live. Indeed, the number of new cases is well down from the spike in July and the expected fall surge hasn't shown up - yet.

Two tidbits on that. In Canada BA.5/BA.4 showed up during summer, and caused a lot of infections. After that, it was hypothesized that the expected Fall surge would be delayed until immunity wanes, so perhaps around winter. However there are new variants,BA.2.75.2 and BQ.1.1, circulating worldwide, which are both very immune evasive. So now the fear is that a wave may come in earlier, after all, as those sub-lineages would reduce or nullify the immunity provided by BA.5. No clear data on virulence (AFAIK) yet. 

 

 

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We're keeping a wary eye on the developing situation. We're also continuing to shun our fellow humans and wear our masks when we do go out, but the Health Officer in our house has recently liberalized the rules; I can now go into a hardware store and actually handle a tool I consider buying rather than trust amazon feedback  - a privilege I've missed greatly. For our wedding anniversary, we ordered a pick-up meal, which was vastly overpriced and underwhelming, so that's not going to happen again, but the containers make dandy reusable microwave dishes. We have received our four doses of vaccine. The vaccination rate in our area is fairly high - which occasions a lot of discarded syringes and swabs and nurses' gear - but of course, we have no idea from one week to the next how effective they are.

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