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Coronavirus’ blessing on nature

Nov 17,2020 - Last updated at Nov 17,2020

Usually, there arise positive and negative aspects from any dilemma or situation, is it therefore possible to presume that COVID-19 might have a positive impact concerning the reduction of green house gases (GHGs)? We believe that this is the case, due to the reduction of GHGs because of changes in our behaviour in at least two sectors: air travel and education!

We share personal experiences with others who were frequently travelling around the world, attending conferences at the invitation of the various universities, institutions and NGOs: local and international; my personal experiences confirms that most air travel could have been replaced by a conference call or a zoom meeting! I am sure many of you share the same experience, particularly in the past decade when the IT industry excelled exponentially in communications to the levels that we see today in our mobiles and laptops.

Many global trips for experts are from the Middle East to China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines; the shortest distance among them is from Amman to Bangkok, which is around 7,000 kilometres. It is well known that aviation amongst other means of transportation is the most pollutant to the environment, as each person's share of carbon dioxide emissions due to travelling by air can reach 250 grams per each kilometers travelled; meaning that a 7000 kilometer flight with 200 passengers onboard would inject into the atmosphere approximately 350 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Adversely, travelling by Eurostar international train produces 6 grammes only per passenger per kilometre.

Global road emissions reached 12.9 per cent in 2019, while aviation emissions stood at 1.9 per cent, which is 15 per cent of road emissions, which is substantial and ought to be considered seriously. Therefore, future travel ought to be re-assessed at a time when carbon dioxide concentrations in the biosphere reached 412 particles per million, and CO2 equivalent reaching 510 ppm in 2019, an unprecedented level in the past 400000 years at least.

Although the Paris Climate Change agreement had been trying since 2015 to reduce emissions, aspiring to stabilise it by 2030, but the two main emitters, (China and the US) which produce almost 43 per cent of the world`s GHGs, are out of the game. However, the corona pandemic has obviously reduced this escalation forcefully by reducing anthropogenic activities due to the pandemic, hopefully keeping emissions within a plateau for a while, at least, in order to allow the Earth to breathe and recover from the repercussions of a bigger pandemic (The Global Warming).

Hitherto, we can say that the lessons learnt from the existing pandemic is that we can change our behaviour, and hopefully continue to do so after the pandemic is confined, by participating in meetings online rather than flying across half the world to speak for 15 minutes. This restriction on air travel should include public servants, parliamentarians, professionals of NGOs, diplomatic missions, academic staff, etc.

Time has come to be inspired by the pandemic that coerced education to be facilitated online, regardless of the difficulties in an under-developed country like Jordan, and has to be expanded as much as possible, particularly for post-schooling, at least for the theory part of education. As for the practical training for applied sciences, for example, universities and colleges abroad can collaborate with local institutions to facilitate experiments at home, doing research, statistical and other activities on their premises and laboratories to limit air travel and transportation emissions in general.

From our perspective, we believe that the corona pandemic bill that the world is paying now, due to widespread lockdowns, reduction in consumption and shrinking travelling hours, is marginal compared to the global warming pandemic that has been costing the world billions of dollars in environmental deterioration annually, at least since the last three decades; therefore, it is imperative that we should make use of the occasion, through a sustainable approach, seeking to save the Earth, starting with restricting air travel, developing greener means of transportation, particularly trains charged with green electricity and promoting education and conferences online.

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