What’s the Impact of the Coronavirus on Climate Change?

The novel coronavirus and outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in an unprecedented impact on the world economy. With unemployment skyrocketing, the stock market changing direction every day, and people losing their lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the grim reality of today’s world order. 

But while the coronavirus is at the center of each and every conversation, what other impact has the virus had globally? For the environment and fight against climate change, a few key patterns have emerged. 

Air Pollution

With so many people confined to their homes, eliminating commutes, travel, and other carbon-creating activities, there’s been a significant decrease in pollution across the globe. In China, the once epicenter of the virus, pollution dropped up to 30% at the peak of the country’s confinement orders. Satellite imagery from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have shown China’s notoriously polluted skies clearing significantly, in what some experts are calling the “the largest scale experiment ever” in terms of emission reduction. 

The commercial flight industry is effectively grounded as people shelter in place. Many major airlines are expected to reduce service or shut down temporarily. Southwest Airlines has already announced a significant reduction in flights, with many in Washington murmuring about bailout packages and stimulus plans for the industry. For the environment, this has meant a significant reduction in carbon emissions from limited flying. Several outlets have reported that nearly 67 million fewer passengers flew in the first three months of 2020 to any year prior.

Venice Canals

Images from Venice’s storybook Italian canals hit social media a few weeks ago, with locals noticing that the waterways were dramatically clearer than in recent years. Venice’s transportation system does still rely on motorized, diesel boats to transport residents, tourists, and even freight. Italy has become a poster child for the deadly nature of COVID-19, but the country’s aggressive lockdown has emptied the streets of Venice—which means the waterways are clear as well.


Venice has been the topic of conversation when it comes to global warming and climate change since the waterbound city has seen significant damage and other infrastructural issues due to rising sea levels.

Fall of Commercial Energy Use

White collar workers have cut commutes and set up home offices, meeting and working virtually in unprecedented volumes. The offices that these people would otherwise flock to weekly have ceased operations, especially in cities like San Francisco and New York with strict shelter in place orders. While domestic energy use is therefore up with people plugging away at home, commercial energy use is down significantly. 

When you think of the energy used in these buildings—many leaving the lights on beyond regular business hours—the amount saved by cutting excess with many people working at home means power stations are running less, reducing emissions that would otherwise be flowing into the atmosphere. 

E-commerce and EcoCart

The coronavirus’s impact on the U.S. economy and the world has been grim, but e-commerce is having a moment. People are relying on e-commerce to not only get essentials delivered to their doors, but also to pass the time while shopping malls and non-essential stores closed. Online shopping may be helping curb the spread of coronavirus and enabling people to stay home, but those packages are still getting shipped and the carbon emissions of getting doorstep deliveries adds up. 

EcoCart is a free and simple way for environmentally conscious online stores to fight the good fight against climate change. In a few clicks, merchants can add the plugin to their Shopify stores, giving customers the option to offset their online orders at checkout. By selecting eco shipping at checkout, customers are donating directly to certified carbon offset projects, reducing the environmental impact of their purchase. Shoppers will be delighted to see the brands they love working to fight climate change and merchants will enjoy increased cart conversion from their satisfied customers. 

While we’ve seen significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the past few months, it’s largely unclear whether this change will have lasting effects. More likely, the virus will die out, people will return to work, and emissions will be on the rise again. Be ahead of the game with EcoCart.