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On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, let’s focus on the positive changes we can make last after COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted economies worldwide, and many lives have been lost due to the coronavirus. However, an interesting trend that people are starting to see is a dramatic decline in toxic emissions and COVID-19 cutting air pollution. But, will this side effect of our behavioral change last?

Changes in Our Behavior from COVID-19 Reduce Air Pollution

As a solar developer, we have been watching with interest how a few changes in behavior can have a large impact on our quality of life and our environment. Some of the following changes are untenable in the long run but do provide some food for thought:

  • People are staying home due to lockdowns and quarantine periods, and because of this there are fewer cars on the road
  • Large manufacturing plants have reduced their output or shut down completely
  • Airports around the world are canceling flights and countries are closing their borders

The question is, how big of an impact is COVID-19 really having on carbon emissions and our air quality? In New York alone, we have seen almost a 10% drop in carbon emissions compared to this time last year. This may be the biggest drop in emissions we have seen since the housing crisis over a decade ago.

Switching to Solar Energy Can Help with Air Pollution

At some point, and perhaps sooner rather than later, we will see an increase in carbon emissions and air pollution as ground and air traffic increase and manufacturing plants start-up production. How can we mitigate the effect?

One way is to make the switch to solar energy. Solar panels do not emit toxins and generate clean energy for thousands of homes, depending on the size of the solar farm. If the state and federal government were to support proven market mechanisms like the ITC at 30% and create stimulus packages for solar, by the time the pandemic is over, we will see a consistent drop in carbon emissions.

Commit to Renewable Energy for Cleaner Air

It’s important to note that this drop is temporary but not necessarily so. Climate change is still a pressing issue once we have gotten through the worst of COVID-19, and we must consider turning to alternative sources of energy, such as solar power, as our primary energy source. COVID-19 is a wake-up call that clearly states we can have an impact on climate change. Solar energy is one pillar of a multi-pronged approach to cutting air pollution and generating clean energy across the world.

States like New York and Virginia have taken the necessary action even when under this immense pressure of a pandemic. Just recently Governor Cuomo passed clean energy legislation that continues to support his zero carbon emissions goals. Other states need to model their path forward on New York’s lead and take action now to reach our long-term climate goals.