Has the Coronavirus Helped the Environment?
In the short term, yes, the coronavirus has led to a 5% reduction of carbon emissions globally (over the past few months). The long-term effects are yet to be realized.
The reduction does not represent the whole year because “a coronavirus impact equivalent to 5.5% of global emissions will not automatically equate to a 5.5% reduction in 2020. This is because, where possible, the country and sector impact estimates are made relative to ‘what would have happened without the crisis’.” (Simon Lewis, Carbon Brief)
Traveling makes up for about 25% of all the global Carbon emissions, so with everyone sheltering-in-place you can see where most of the reduction comes from. The issue with that is a lot of people are just going to go back to work/normal life when this is over, and that reduction will be no more. Same is to be said with airlines. Airlines are actually some of the worst polluters. In New York carbon dioxide was down 5% due to decrease in travel. In China the reduction was as much as 25%.
Reduced Oil Consumption
Nearly 10% of global oil consumption has been wiped out by the coronavirus. This has led to some larger metropolitan areas having significantly improved air quality. You may have seen some of the pictures of Los Angeles without smog, or Beijing with clear skies. To many, clear skies have indicated a significant environmental improvement. That may be a false positive.