Social Distancing? You Might Be Fighting Climate Change, Too
As our country’s priorities shift into fighting off the coronavirus, one question arises: could social isolation help reduce an individual’s production of greenhouse gases and end up having unintended climate benefits?
As it stands, the biggest sources of carbon emissions caused by our lifestyles come from three activities: flying on planes, getting in cars and eating animal products. So far, anybody who is trying to avoid the coronavirus are already two-thirds of the way there.
Here are two areas we may see changes in greenhouse gas emissions because of the coronavirus.
For the average American, the largest source of greenhouse emissions stems from driving. But as more and more people are self-quarantining and working from home, this has a big impact on our climate pollution. Avoiding air travel can have a large affect as well: one round trip flight from New York to London produces as much greenhouse gas emissions as the preventative climate impact of nearly eight years of recycling.
Christopher M. Jones, lead developer at the CoolClimate Network, an applied research consortium at the U.C. Berkeley Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, said that the results remain inconclusive on whether eating at a restaurant or dining at home creates a larger carbon footprint. “We waste about 25% of the food that we buy,” however if you are driving long distances to go to your favorite restaurant, that too is a contributor of carbon emissions. Even though the results are unfounded, Dr. Jones believes where you eat is still not as important as what you eat; eating beef has a disproportionate climate impact as opposed to eating plants which result in a much smaller carbon footprint.