Coronavirus: the beneficial effects of containment on the environment

A good week has passed since Tuesday, March 17th, in which the French are locked up and the positive effects on the environment can already be measured. The air in Paris is much less polluted than usual. The Airparif organization notes “an improvement in air quality of 20 to 30%” after a “decrease of more than 60% for nitrogen oxides”. Measurements unknown in forty years. And this exceptional situation is directly related to the decline in road and air traffic.

It’s a different story for fine particles. Their reduction is less clear because they come from different sources and have not decreased certain emissions activities: agriculture and home heating among others. In addition, the beautiful spring weather of the past few days tends to capture fine particles like under a hot air blanket.

Other good news: CO2 emissions, one of the Greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, have also declined, after Airparif.

Cleaner air and less noise

When the engine noise decreases, the birds chirp … and the animals relax.

Jérôme Sueur, eco-acoustician at the National Museum of Natural History, talks about a healthy “detoxification”. Usually, the noise caused by human activities out of bounds disrupt the sounds of animals. However, their screams often have important functions: to indicate that they are ready to reproduce, to warn of a danger … To cover the noise caused by humans, they have to sing louder or more often, and it tires them. Conversely, relative silence should help these animals to get better and reproduce more easily. In any case, Jérôme Sueur congratulates: ” With the Covid 19 crisis, the decline in transport traffic offers unique conditions for an extensive scientific experiment. Partial suppression of the noise of an entire country – an exogenous shock unthinkable for a scientist – makes it possible to test the importance of anthropophony (sounds associated with human activities) for animal behavior and ecology. “”

The effects of containment on marine biodiversity

The containment also made the people in Calanques Park in Marseille happy. The park guards sometimes saw rare species that normally stay away from this Mediterranean town due to the frequent passage of recreational boats. But while the Marseillais stayed home, dolphins and tuna, puffins, boobies and gray herons ran out, and seabirds landed in places they had never been seen before.

When containment is complete

However, scientists fear a return to the situation at the end of containment. Recovery plans could lose all of these environmental benefits, as has been the case in the past, particularly after the 2008 crisis.

A group of MEPs tries to avoid this trap: Matthieu Orphelin (ex-La République en Marche) is behind a “great plan to change our society for the benefit of the climate, biodiversity, solidarity and prosperity”.

After the crisis, he wants to jointly invent another social model that is compatible with protecting the climate and biodiversity. During the parliamentary debate on measures to establish a Health status emergency He therefore submitted an amendment to this “Grand Plan” together with 35 other Members for two months. The law was released on Monday, March 23. However, according to the government’s unfavorable opinion, the amendment was rejected without being discussed at all.

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