NO DOUBT the Covid-19 virus is altering the way we live, hopefully temporarily. Lockdowns, travel restrictions and community quarantines have resulted in significant decrease in the movement of people on land, sea and air. Some factories and business establishments have closed or scaled down their operations. Others resorted to “work-from-home” scheme.

The decrease in human activities inadvertently brought about something good - the reduction in emission of greenhouse gases. In China where Covid-19 started, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are down 25 percent since February. That’s a reduction of about 100 million metric tons of CO2. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States and the European Space Agency pollution monitoring satellites have also detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide over China.

Is this reduction in greenhouse gases something to be excited about? Not really, if we are to believe the statements of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He said that “the disease is expected to be temporary, but climate change has been a phenomenon for many years, and will remain with us for decades and require constant action.”

Speaking in New York at the launch of a new UN climate report published last March 10, Guterres said we will not fight climate change with a virus. He is worried that the coronavirus panic will distract people from the fight against climate change which he says is far more important. “Both Covid-19 and climate change require a determined response and both must be defeated,” says the UN Secretary General.

The UN chief warned that the world is currently way off track meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for. The Earth continues to get hotter. Several records were broken in recent years and decades. The year 2019 was the second warmest on record and 2010-2019 was the warmest decade on record. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.

The climate change relief brought by Covid-19 is short term, but we can learn from our experiences from this pandemic. Specifically, we can rethink the way we move around, work, travel, and shop and do leisure activities. By now we should have realized that there are things that we can do without. Better to do a little sacrifice now than suffer the long term consequences of a warming plant.

This temporary relief might not really make a big dent in the fight against climate change. Look at history. Worldwide greenhouse gas emissions went down during the 2008 recession, but within a year they bounced back with a vengeance. For Covid-19, the Chinese government is expected to ramp up its manufacturing activities after the virus is totally controlled. This means we can expect huge rise emissions rise as factories begin to operate.

While we’re at it, let’s use these lockdowns and quarantines as a practice in reducing our impact to the environment.