Protests vs. lockdown, what's had a bigger impact on slowing climate change?

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I have been researching about climate change protests and been thinking about whether they have had as much of an impact as Covid-19 in reducing pollution and emissions. The three main types of pollution are air, water and land. A main cause of air pollution is when fossil fuels are burnt. Main causes of water pollution are sewage, industrial waste and fertilizers used in farming. Land pollution happens when waste and household rubbish is buried in landfill sites. Harmful emissions are the main cause of acid rain which harms the environment.

Greenhouse gasses are causing rising temperatures globally, this has a big impact on climate change. Pollution can have other harmful effects, for example pollution can damage people’s health and mean harmful things will enter the food chain. I have read in the news about lots of climate change protests over the last year, particularly those by extinction rebellion (XR) but I have seen from news reports about Covid-19 and lockdowns having caused declines in harmful emissions in China, Europe and America. So, I am wondering if climate change protests can make a difference or if Governments should just make us stop polluting?

Covid-19 lockdowns had an impact on climate change because people were not travelling to work as much and were driving less, factories were shut down because people were told to stay home so the factories made less things and there was less pollution. People spent less money buying things because they were losing their jobs and business did not sell as much.

Climate change has caused, floods fires and landslides around the world, this caused protest groups to protest about slowing down and stopping climate change. XR led a lot of protests about climate change because they believe that if people do not do anything now, we will go extinct just like the dinosaurs did.

Pollution is bad for people because if you have health problems like asthma you could die of an asthma attack. In December, a Coroner's Court found that air pollution "made a material contribution" to the death of nine-year-old girl, this is the first time that air pollution was recorded as cause of death.

Greta Thunberg is known for challenging world leaders on climate change issues, she became famous for doing a school strike against climate change. At the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit she famously told them “how dare you!”. If global warming continues, sea levels will rise, there will be flooding in some parts of the world which can kill people and make them homeless. There will also be more droughts and harvests will fail leading to starvation and people will die. Climate change is caused by us and the choices we make so we must do as much as we can to stop it.

A lot of pollution is caused by businesses, they take raw materials and manufacture things. These are often turned into more complicated things, at each stage pollution will be created as a side effect. So just think about the pollution that is created when an iPhone is made? Rare metals will have been mined, plastics made of oil need moulding to make circuit boards, complicated electronic devices like touch screens. These will have been transported over the world, simply moving them by air, sea and land creates extra pollution as fossil fuels will be burnt. Even when they finish making an iPhone it needs to be sent to shops and people travel there to buy them. So, I think climate change is caused by people and we need to stop it.

In September 2020, the XR group led protests in London against climate change caused by businesses and farming. They wanted the government to declare a climate emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 and set up a "citizens' assembly on climate issues. Lots of people were arrested in theses protests and they have not been successful. People even criticised them for protesting during the pandemic. I think that if they draw attention to climate change issues, they will have had a positive effect.

Some groups have had some successes. The Oxford Climate Justice Campaign campaigned against climate change, this led to Oxford University changing its approach in April 2020. Oxford University now want climate-conscious businesses, for example making sure investments are in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

NASA’s space- and ground-based observations have shown that Earth’s atmosphere has seen significant reductions in air pollutants Since the COVID-19 pandemic began. They used computer models to make a COVID-free 2020 comparison. In November 2020 they found that since February, pandemic restrictions reduced global nitrogen dioxide emissions by nearly 20%. Wuhan, China was the first city reporting an outbreak of COVID-19. Its nitrogen dioxide emissions were 60% lower than expected. Milan, Spain had a 60% decrease and New York, USA had a 45% decrease, this happened when restrictions started.

Will lockdowns have a long-term impact on pollution and climate change? I am not even sure that they will have a short-term impact. This is because the lockdowns have been stopped and started several times, also although lockdowns will have reduced emissions it does not mean they did not increase again when governments gave companies money to help them survive. We may not be going to supermarkets as much, but we are still buying lots of processed food and gadgets, remember Christmas?

I think Governments arrested climate change protesters to stop them being a problem, I saw in the news how the UK is putting money into green technologies and how President Joe Biden wants the US to re-join the Paris climate accords. I think they are doing this because they think we should be more environmentally friendly, but also because it will get them votes! I hope that in the long-term protestors will help raise awareness of these issues to help reduce pollution and slow climate change down.

Lockdowns cannot be permanent so they can only have a short-term effect on climate change. I hope people have noticed the benefits of having cleaner air during the pandemic particularly those who live in cities. I believe that this will encourage people to support green technologies and for us to change the way we live our lives. Businesses could let people work from home which would have a big impact on air pollution, and this will save lives. Businesses are interested in making money so the government might need to change laws and force them to be greener.

We can all do little things to slow climate change, maybe we should listen to protesters and think about the issues they are protesting about. If we were all a bit more thoughtful perhaps, we could prevent human extinction!

By jovial_eel

Comments (5)

  • katie.jpg Katie @ the BNC
    22 Jan 2021

    Wow jovial_eel, thank you for providing us with a very exciting question and lots of information to help us make our minds up. I've awarded you with a star for the problem-solving skills that you have used to compare the impact of lockdown and environmental protests. Well done.

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  • Ericka Shin.jpg EXPERT: Ericka Shin, Fact Checker @ The Economist
    29 Jan 2021

    A thoughtful and excellently researched post, jovial_eel! I noticed you mentioned that governments might need to change laws to force businesses to be greener, and that got me wondering why they haven't done it sooner. Why do you think legislators haven't changed the law to curb climate change earlier, and do you think they'll be successful if they tried now?

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  • Lyons Hall Primary School terrific_effort | Lyons Hall Primary School A
    29 Jan 2021

    Protesting vs lockdown I thing protesting would have a bigger impact of slowing down claimant change because they could be saying that shops need to stop using so much plastic for essential items but in lockdown more and more people are using plastic because they are stock pilling and a lot of shop items have plastic wrapped around that item so that is why I think that protesting would be more affective to stop climate change.

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  • Lyons Hall Primary School pioneering_drawing | Lyons Hall Primary School A
    29 Jan 2021

    If there was a debate about protests and lockdown I would go for lockdown because covid-19 is most important if there was a protest about that then protesting would be the most dangerous to climate change and covid-19 were as lockdown would be less dangerous because no-one going out of their house.

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  • Cyfarthfa Park Primary logo centered_flower | Cyfarthfa Park Primary A
    04 Feb 2021

    why would they go out to protest when there is a global pandemic and if they catch it they all will have it and will have to isolate for 2 weeks/10 days and making this covid-19 unbeatibull so instead do an online protest safer and getting your opinion out there rather than putting more people at risk

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