Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to multiply across the globe, but one thing is for certain, climate change did not cause this pandemic. There is no arguing this point with the data that we have at our at our disposal, but this very same data is suggesting that we have made things worse.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and since it's a respiratory disease, the quality of the air we breathe can be the difference between life and death. This is especially true for people with pre-existing conditions and/or compromised lungs.
Take, for instance, fine particulate air pollution, or PM 2.5. This pollutant is generated by refineries, power plants and from combustion engines in cars. Research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows, for example, that someone who lives for decades in a county with high levels of PM 2.5 is 15% more likely to die from COVID-19 than someone who lives in a region that has just one microgram per cubic meter of less pollution.
It's not all bad news. We realize that completely shutting down the fossil fuel industry at this time is not feasible, but this temporary shutdown has yielded some positive results. PM 2.5 readings are way down, and so are NO2 readings or smog. Skylines that were once shrouded in toxic muck are now completely visible in all their glory. The health of our waterways is an order of magnitude better. The list goes on and on.
So it's really up to us. We've been given a glimpse into the "possible" future. A future with clean air, clean water and by default, healthier inhabitants of planet Earth. It's worth cleaning up for us and future generations.