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COVID-19 and its impact on the environment

Over the past few weeks we’ve all experienced significant change in one way or another.

Some of us may no longer be working in an office, those with children may now be home-schooling and most of us would have likely had to queue for the supermarket!

However, what impact have these changes in behaviour and routine had on the environment? In the UK there has been a dramatic change in energy consumption. For example, the usual morning electricity peak has flattened. Pre-lockdown, many of us would be getting ready for the day in a small window of time. However, during lockdown as a nation we, have experienced a slower morning routine, not needing to get out of the house as quickly as before. Therefore, our need for electricity and general energy consumption is now stretched over a longer period of time. This has meant that the grid has not experienced such intense demand so early in the day.

As we were all confined to our homes for Lockdown, there was also a significant drop in petrol and diesel consumption as the public weren’t driving anywhere. This in turn has improved air quality for most of the country. Those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma may have experienced a more pleasant experience whilst outside as a result.

With the weather continuing to improve as we approach the summer months, even though we are in our homes more of the time, the need for central heating begins to drop, further lowering our energy consumption. It is predicted that if this pattern continues some coal and gas power plants may be turned down or even off as demand continues to fall.

All this change has essentially benefited the environment as we are not relying on its reserves as much. The lack of travel and energy ‘crunch times’ disappearing, we’re seeing beneficial impacts to the world around us.

What remains unclear at the moment is how our energy consumption will change as we start to go back to normal. Will it be a steady incline as we cautiously return to commuting and going about our normal routines? Or will there be sudden spike and rapid increase in demand. Without knowing this, it is hard to estimate the impact this will have on the environment. A slow, steady increase could help us control any immediate impact, but like with any behaviour change, rapid growth and surges can have more harmful and damaging effects.

For now, energy usage continues to be closely monitored by scientists and environmentalists which is sure to lead to larger and more in-depth studies as time goes on.