Social Distancing? You Might Be Fighting Climate Change, Too

Published in The New York Times

Social Distancing? You Might Be Fighting Climate Change, Too

Isolation and other shifts in behavior during the coronavirus outbreak could also alter our greenhouse gas emissions. But will the changes stick?

While these problems are recognized, and significant research and development focuses on related issues, the technical solutions to reduce nitrogen inputs remain lacking, as evidenced by countless algae blooms and fish kills, the growing number of dead zones, and increasing pollution-related harm to systems such as coral reefs. We believe there is an urgent need to identify new solutions and innovative approaches to stopping, remediating, and addressing the causes and consequences of coastal pollution.

As the nation shifts abruptly into the fight against coronavirus, a question arises: could social isolation help reduce an individual’s production of greenhouse gases and end up having unexpected consequences for climate change?

The biggest sources of carbon emissions caused by our lifestyles come from three activities, said Kimberly Nicholas, a researcher at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies in Sweden: “Any time you can avoid getting on a plane, getting in a car or eating animal products, that’s a substantial climate savings.” Many people trying to avoid the coronavirus are already two-thirds of the way there.

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