[PUBLICATION] Environmental Debates in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Media, Communication, and the Public

Shirley S. Ho, Norie Ross Singer, Janet Z. Yang, Senja Post, Tsung-Jen Shih, Liang Chen, Silje Kristiansen & Bruno Takahashi

The world has faced a series of pandemics in its history, and the COVID-19 pandemic is a monumental one, bringing about far-reaching impacts on all aspects of life, including impacts on public health, and on the way people live. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the interdependence between human beings and the environment, evident from the impact that COVID-19 has had on the environment because of the limits it put to human mobility and travel. The world has witnessed how countries experienced positive environmental impacts on their local areas through improvements in air quality, water quality and noise pollution. This was driven particularly by national lockdown(s), where social interactions and movements were limited due to work-from-home arrangements, people were encouraged to stay at home, and non-essential domestic and international travel were being halted.

In the first half of 2020, drastic reduction in air pollution was reported during the different lockdown periods in the 50 capital cities that experienced the most air pollution (Rodriguez-Urrego & Rodriguez-Urrego, 2020). Improvements in water quality were detected worldwide due to reduced maritime activity and less dumping of waste (Manoiu et al., 2022). The lockdowns also brought about reduced noise levels due to minimized human and vehicular traffic, thereby resulting in lower levels of noise pollution and better quality of life (Caniato et al., 2021). The immediate impact of COVID-19 on the environment is evident through the large reduction in carbon dioxide emissions worldwide that occurred during the onset of the pandemic, or the first half of 2020, particularly during the initial lockdown, as compared to the same timeframe in 2019 (Liu et al., 2020).

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