Our environment consists of two major components: living and non-living things. The living components, as the name implies, include all lifeforms on earth, from microscopic microbes to gargantuan blue whales. Non-living components of the environment include all the spheres of the earths, (such as hydrosphere and lithosphere ), physical, chemical, and other natural forces.
Radioactive pollution occurs when the environment and the organisms living within are exposed to high energy ionizing radiation. These ionizing radiations carry tremendous amounts of energy, which can damage the DNA of living tissues. Once the DNA gets damaged, the living tissue is unable to repair itself and is more prone to mutations – which can cause uncontrolled cell growth – cancer.
Water is another essential resource for life. About 71% of the earth’s surface is covered with water; however, just 1% of that is usable freshwater. Hence, conservation of water is important. It helps to reduce the energy required to process and deliver water.
Another important aspect of the environment is the food web. A food web is a group of interconnected food chains found in the environment. If any organism on the food chain becomes extinct, the whole food web can become imbalanced and collapse. For instance, the population of an apex predator in an ecosystem may become imbalanced and collapse.
The Covid-19 coronavirus first struck in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, at the end of 2019. It quickly spread beyond Asia. The policy responses have mostly been lockdowns of varying intensities and durations. Though there have been many national and even international curfews in the past, perhaps most prominently during the Second World War, there are no examples of lockdowns on a global scale deployed to counter the spread of disease. It is wholly novel to force significant proportions of the populations of the major world economies to stay at home, and mostly indoors. There are at least five sets of research questions. First, what are the short-term impacts and are any of them likely to be enduring? In particular, how great are reductions in global and local GDP and in air pollution? What is the largely anecdotal evidence on the impact of less travel on the wider natural environment, ranging from reduced tourism to less disturbance of wildlife? What do these short-term reductions tell us about the relationship between GDP and emissions?
The environmental impacts in the short term are even harder to calculate, though some, like the fall in greenhouse gas emissions and the improvements in air quality, are more instantaneously measurable. The impacts of less effective wildlife and environmental regulation and enforcement, and the delays to many current policy developments, will not be known for quite some time, and in some cases not for several years. These range from poaching to the COP26 outcomes.
Nevertheless, recent advances in satellite and ground-based mapping technologies enable the real-time monitoring of a number of pollution types, notably emissions of greenhouse gases, and urban air quality. Early indications are that there has been a dramatic fall in pollution. Coal-fired power station utilisation, already in decline in most major economies outside China, Japan and India, has fallen back sharply, and especially in China in the early months of the pandemic.Footnote1 There has been a sudden and sharp decline of transport, and with it the burning of oil. These energy-related emissions reductions are not, however, replicated in agricultural emissions, which do not appear to be significantly affected so far.