Impacts of COVID-19 on Climate Change

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When the GDP decreases, so does the carbon dioxide emissions. One significant event that is emphasized is the Great Recession in 2009. As GDP tremendously dropped in 2009, you can see emissions dropping as well. With people losing their jobs, the need to commute also decreased. So people weren’t purchasing gasoline for their cars. With demands low, fossil fuel companies weren’t pumping oil so less carbon dioxide emissions there. In addition, there were less emissions from individual cars as well since people weren’t commuting. According to the New York Times, Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States declined in 2009 for the second consecutive year, reflecting the impact of the recession on industrial production and overall energy use, the federal government reported ( Broder 2017). Ultimately it comes down to demand. With people not having jobs, there is less demand for fossil fuels and other industrial products.

This exact trend is also being repeated right now with the Covid-19 situation. GDP is decreasing due to less demand and so is the carbon dioxide emissions and the environment seems to be recovering. Due to less demand, there is less industrial production in China. An example is this image from Wuhan, China.

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According to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the lockdown has improved the air quality. “Satellite images released by NASA and the European Space Agency show a dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions –those released by vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities — in major Chinese cities between January and February. The visible cloud of toxic gas hanging over industrial powerhouses almost disappeared.From February 3 to March 1, CO2 emissions were down by at least 25% because of the measures to contain the coronavirus, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), an air pollution research organization” ( Wright 2020). With China being the world’s biggest polluter, China contributes a lot of carbon dioxide so this impact is beneficial for the environment. According to CREA, it is equivalent to 200 million tons of carbon dioxide.

Based on the results, there is a significant correlation between the climate and the economy. The economy does have an effect on the climate. Based on demand, the production of goods and the resources to make those goods impact the climate. This effect was observed through the chart and image.


As you have just seen, there is a correlation between the economy and the climate. When the economy isn’t doing well, the climate improves as carbon dioxide emissions drop. Since this is a direct relationship, when the economy does well, the climate degrades as carbon dioxide emissions increase. That’s just the schematics.

When businesses make profit, they try to build off of that profit. They try to create new and improved products for consumers, or try to create more products at cheaper prices. Although those actions do have climate consequences, I want to focus on another part of that process: pollution. When companies manufacture and transport products, they are contributing so much to the environment. Of course there are regulations to that pollution through what is called Cap and Trade. Cap and Trade is a policy where the government sets a limit to the amount of emissions a company has. The company has to stay under that limit but can increase the limit by buying the amount from another company which would decrease their emission cap. This is an excellent policy to limit pollution but the problem is that it is not doing enough. It isn’t saving the planet and companies continue to go around the law.

This brings me to the main problem that I want to address. Big companies, especially the fossil fuel industry, are trying to make more profit by not following environmental regulations and by preventing laws that may hinder their profits. Climate policies create more regulations and taxes which mean that these companies aren’t going to be making as much. To them, they see nothing but the profit. In my literature review, I discussed how the climate is affecting the economy. It is causing more loss from natural disasters, which are occurring more due to climate change. I talked about how natural resources are running out and not being able to be independent is going to cause future economic issues. I even gave examples of how this is affecting the fossil fuel industry but as we can see from their actions, fossil fuel industries are not going to change how they are treating the environment. They know the damage they are causing but they continue to do so. They take it to another level and even lobby politicians so that they can continue in their old ways.

Analysis example: Shell corruption

For example, according to The Guardian, “in the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560 parts per million and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over then-current levels. Later that decade, in 1988, an internal report by Shell projected similar effects but also found that CO2 could double even earlier, by 2030” ( Franta 2018). Their assessment proved that the temperature would rise, that sea levels would rise, and that specific ecosystems would disappear (Glaser 1982). All of this information was constantly being repeated for the past 3 years. We thought this was new information but these companies knew this information for more than 3 decades. For example, Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research. Oil firms spent billions of dollars on researching the consequences of their actions only to reject it for profit.

These companies never took responsibility. In Shell’s study, the firm argued that the “main burden” of addressing climate change rests not with the energy industry, but with governments and consumers (Glaser 1982). Quite ironic since they currently lie about climate change and continue to actively prevent the government from enacting environmental policies. According to a report from InfluenceMap, Shell spent some $22 million in 2015 on lobbying activities against climate policies amongst other companies such as Exxon, IBM, Total, and Pfizer, creating a negative impact on climate policy. On top of that, these companies also avoid taxes, which is typical among big companies in America’s capitalism.

Analysis: political lobby

Political lobbying is the only reason why nothing has been done with climate change. The Paris Agreement was a perfect starter plan for America to get involved with preventing more climatic damage, but obviously President Trump withdrew from it in hopes of making more money compared to the other countries that are supposedly “held back with it”. According to numerous reports, more than 55 percent of Republicans made statements suggesting that they would not support climate change policy. This happens because the climate change policy would reduce the business of fossil fuel as it advocates for the use of green energy such as solar power. Therefore to protect their interest, the lobbyists aim to support the politicians by funding some of their projects as well as their campaigns so that they vote no to the climate change bill. In return, nothing gets done in this country. There are so many bills that have been brushed under the rug by lobbyists that we don’t even know of. The Paris Agreement was only one example, one that the public knew about due to its popularity.

Analysis: corruption

Here’s how corruption works. Either a company invests in a politician’s campaign and they promise to vote or propose bills benefiting the company or they carry out the act through ALEC. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a private political lobbyist club of politicians and corporations where ALEC and members of the club get together to write bills for politicians. The only thing politicians have to do is insert the name of their state and take it to congress. Through Alec, corporations have a say in our law making, so much that their voice and power overpowers the voice and power of the people. According to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, one of the environmental laws that Alec proposed was the Electricity Freedom Act where it stated “BE IT THEREFORE ENACTED, that the State of {INSERT STATE} repeals the renewable energy mandate”. Pfizer, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and other fossil fuel companies are a part of this organization! This corruption is really old news, yet there is nothing being done about the corruption at all. This club is hard to tackle since it consists of powerful politicians and groups. In the past, the truth always prevailed. When corruptions were revealed, companies would fall from power but now, it’s power that prevails.


If we want anything to be done about climate change, we have to tackle corruption at its roots. Exposing corruption doesn’t work, because political lobbying will still continue. Asking congress to pass laws to prevent political lobbying is going to be difficult because the exchange of favors and money happens through “donations” as politicians say. Fossil fuel companies choose to lobby politicians so that there are no laws to prevent their growth of wealth and their business. However, if our laws are able to limit the profit of the fossil fuel industry through high taxes or caps, they can prevent the excessive greed of these companies. Socialism can be the solution to climate change. If fossil fuel companies are taxed on their wealth or on the damage they cause from extracting products, then not only are their profits being limited but the government can collect money to invest in improving the climate through research and green infrastructure.

But that’s not possible with the government being controlled like puppets. So to combat that, there are two ways. One is opportunity. Politicians can incentivize fossil fuel companies to use green infrastructure and sustainable methods in order to avoid high taxes and settle for a lower tax. That way the government is still gaining taxes but also is reducing carbon impact. Another is force. America alone cannot tackle companies that operate worldwide. They will have to work with other world leaders to create this unified climate action. If most countries are doing it together, then the companies cannot say anything to it. Challenging it would be challenging several countries and their people. It’s similar to how countries united under the Paris Agreement but maybe this time, if we have a wiser president, we might be able to set things right with Mother Nature.

Ultimately socialism is the trojan horse for climate activism since it can pave the way for more climate actions. If we can limit the profits, we limit the greed and the government is able to invest in more climate research and infrastructure. As a student who is very passionate about climate change, this is a theme that I have been preaching to other students all over New York through social media and climate marches and this is an idea that everyone agrees with. If you remove the control the fossil fuel companies have on the government through socialism, you free the government to pass laws under the disguise of socialism. Socialism is something that the Millennial generation and other younger generations support in contrast to the older generations. Bernie Sanders and his presidential campaign of democratic socialism is an example of that support for socialism. Although it is difficult to implement it now, as time goes by, and these Millennials become politicians themselves, they will be able to implement these socialistic elements. 

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Impacts of COVID-19 on Climate change. (2022, Mar 24). Retrieved from