In a matter of weeks, every one of us has been forced to accommodate an immutable shift within nature, and to confront the limitations we have when it comes to maintaining life as we have always known it to be.
Covid-19 offers a worrying insight into the vulnerabilities of modern life — one that very few of us could have foreseen or, indeed, prepared for. But these unavoidable circumstances have also demonstrated how capable we all are of adaptation and perseverance, particularly when it is made necessary in the face of a significant threat to our lives, and our livelihoods.
In comparison to the immediate issue posed by this new strain of coronavirus, climate change may seem like a slow-burner, but the importance of it cannot be over-looked. Though we have all been made aware of the devastating impact our modern lifestyles have and are continuing to have on the planet, the issue has sadly ever forced us to change with the same urgency demanded by the Covid-19 crisis. Until now, the vast majority of us have continued life in much the same vein, relatively ‘safe’ in the knowledge that we can continue to leave our houses, to shop and socialise and work and travel, with no discernible ramifications.
But the current lockdown has made each one of us aware of the potential the future holds. As humans, we bear the brunt of crises — a fact which has been made clear by the fear and worry that has followed us all since the closing weeks of 2019.
Now more than ever, we can understand that, while many forces lie within our control, the consequences of our actions can define a generation. Climate change may not be dominating the headlines this year but, much like Covid-19, it is an issue that necessitates drastic action in order to avoid yet another unprecedented disaster for the planet.
When fossil fuels are burned, combustion gases are emitted into the atmosphere — along with a number of harmful substances, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. The many consequences this process has for our environment and wellbeing are devastating, from raising mercury levels in aquatic life, to the destruction of soil and vegetation due to acid rain, to a global increase in temperature.
Turning to renewable sources of energy, from wind farms to commercial solar installation, offers an opportunity to sustain our modern way of living without contributing to the release of toxic pollutants. Air pollution impacts every area of our lives, and without action, it will only escalate and cause unprecedented disruption to each and every one of us.
In many ways, we remain at the very outset of this disaster. While the task of mitigating the impact Covid-19 has on our health, and on the NHS, cannot be understated, it signals only the initial ramifications of the pandemic. In the months and years that follow this period, the true economic impact will make itself known, even after the threat of illness has passed.
It is no secret that recovering the economy will require a marked investment into the environment. Even without the disruption to normal life caused by Covid-19, the ongoing threat of global warming was putting the entire world at risk of significant economic struggles.
Without a widespread shift to sustainable practices, such as commercial solar installation, the economy’s productive capacity will be derailed by rising temperatures and more extreme weather. Agriculture remains the most vulnerable to a devastated climate, but infrastructure, countless supply chains upon which businesses are dependent, and our health and wellbeing, all rely on the stability of the planet.
At the beginning of 2020, the World Economic Forum’s Long-Term Risk Outlook was dominated by concerns for environmental factors. Failure to take sufficient action against climate change was predicted to have the most catastrophic impact on the economy, over and above information infrastructure breakdown, cyber attacks, and even weapons of mass destruction.
Scientists suggested that a temperature rise of just 2°C could lower the global GDP by 15%, but that green energy could offer it an unprecedented boost of trillions. And while the current lockdown measures being taken against Covid-19 have had a significant impact on air pollution, without any significant plans in place for a more environmentally-sound future, we are going to see a seismic resurgence of pollutants across the planet and, as a result, a profound struggle to recapture economic stability.
A number of recent studies into the proliferation and severity of Covid-19 cases have found a noteworthy link between areas that are subjected to higher levels of air pollution, and those with higher death rates as a result of the virus. Of course, prior to the current pandemic, increased exposure to air pollution has already been shown to increase the risk of death from all causes but, when it comes to Covid-19, the risk is 20 times higher.
Air pollution presents an unremitting threat to our health, and the WHO has revealed that it is responsible for a third of deaths caused by stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease. While we are all able to avoid the damaging effects of smoking cigarettes, none of us can avoid air that has been saturated with pollutants, though the ramifications for our health are the same.
Now more than ever before, the importance of building and maintaining a safe and healthy world lies in stark contrast to the current state of our lives. Covid-19 offers a harrowing look into a future of dissonance; the rapid escalation of a struggle between modern life and natural law. It should not be inherently dangerous for us to breathe the air outside of our homes, and yet, in areas with exceedingly high levels of particle pollution, wearing protective face masks was becoming the norm long before the outbreak of this new strain of coronavirus.
While we are all able to take heart in the knowledge that the current lockdown measures are significantly improving air quality, this progress is only temporary. Much of this crisis remains out of our hands, but it is our responsibility to adopt practices that promote our continued health and wellbeing. Social distancing and investing in sustainable practices may seem disparate, but they both pave the way for a healthier, more viable future.
For now and the foreseeable future, much of the UK’s workforce has been required by the government to conduct business from their own homes, unless it is impossible to do so. As a result, energy providers have seen a sharp rise in domestic energy use during business hours, despite the fact that overall energy usage has dropped following the temporary closure of many commercial sites.
The ability to create and use our own electricity from a free and sustainable source is now more important than ever before. It is impossible to say when life will return to normal, but predictions are making it increasingly clear that, for many, remote working will remain common practice for some time. Using solar panels in order to become independent from the grid allows those who continue to work from home to earn their living without needing to compensate for an increased energy bill. With solar panels, ‘peak energy hours’ no longer pose a problem; homeowners are able to continue to earn money and to run energy-guzzling appliances like washing machines and dishwashers at the same time using free solar energy.
Since the emergence of Covid-19 in late November 2019, industries across the world have been forced to cease operations. Flights have been grounded, the vast majority of road traffic has disappeared, cruise ships have docked indefinitely, and the electricity once directed towards offices, warehouses, shops, restaurants and schools is now largely superfluous. Much of what was once responsible for the bulk of our harmful emissions has ground to a halt, and already we are seeing reports on the sudden drop in CO2 entering into our atmosphere.
London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Bristol are among the UK cities already noticing significant drops in particulate matter pollution. As a result of decreased demand, many energy providers have been able to draw upon renewable energy sources for homes, where energy use has increased as a result of many people making the transition to remote working environments.
Knowing that the air is noticeably cleaner after just a few months of altered habits is being seen as something of a silver lining for many but, unfortunately, without a definitive commitment to investing in renewable energy, the world will soon return to work in environments unprepared for positive change. As the immediate threat of Covid-19 passes, we are bound to experience a monumental resurgence of toxic emissions, and return to a way of life that risks undermining not only progress, but life as we know it, too.
Our continued reliance upon fossil fuels is perpetuating an unnecessary war against nature; our current practices are inherently damaging to the planet, and the trouble we are causing will soon be felt most severely by ourselves. Fortunately, economic, social and technological progress can continue unhampered by commercial solar installation. You can continue to power your home and business with free and harmless energy gathered through solar panels. For this reason, unclean energy sources are becoming increasingly obsolete, and the damage we are doing to our planet is ever more inexcusable.
And while the current crisis makes it difficult to envision the future with any sense of clarity, global warming —and further challenges to our livelihoods — remain a certainty unless investment is made into ensuring that renewable energy practices such as commercial solar installation are made the norm.
We cannot change our current circumstances, but we now face a window of opportunity for securing a better future. Covid-19 has demonstrated our ability to rapidly adapt to challenges, but global warming is not an issue that has descended upon us in a matter of months. The planet is in a gradual state of decline, which means that it presents to us an opportunity for prevention, rather than mitigation.