'Coronavirus forces adherence to Paris climate goals'
Pandemic forces countries, people to reduce carbon emissions, improving air quality, says Huseyin Toros
The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus has led to falling carbon emissions due to drops in industrial production and transportation amid nation-wide lockdown measures across the world, forcing countries to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord, according to a Turkish meteorologist.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Huseyin Toros, an expert in atmospheric science and air quality at Istanbul Technical University, said the COVID-19 outbreak compelled people to take measures that they would not voluntarily take under normal circumstances.
"The coronavirus is driving us towards the emission reduction targeted by international climate agreements such as the Paris Agreement. So, the outbreak has forced us to reduce emissions that we cannot meet [with the targets] normally," he stressed.
Mentioning the "failure" of the 2019 COP25 climate meetings in Spain to introduce sanctions against carbon emissions, Toros stressed that due to the measures against the virus such as halting flights and cuts in industrial production, the "tiny" virus paved the way to meet global targets.
Countries at COP21 in Paris, on Dec. 12, 2015, reached the landmark Paris Agreement to combat climate change and accelerate and intensify actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future.
Touching on the positive effects of the difficulties people now face amid the pandemic, he said air quality in Turkey's metropolis of Istanbul, with its population of over 15 million, has visibly improved since the outbreak, adhering to a global trend.
Levels of airborne PM 2.5 (particulate matter) in Istanbul dropped by 36% from March 1-15 to March 16-24 in clear evidence that the air quality is increasing as measures increase against coronavirus, he said.
Apart from drops in industrial production and transportation, he said the improvement stemmed from warming temperatures as "one of the biggest parameters" in air pollution was meteorological conditions in the atmosphere.
He suggested that the world should learn a lesson from the current air quality level and work to keep pollution limited after the pandemic subsides.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the new coronavirus has spread to at least 172 countries and territories. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 436,000 while the death toll is over 19,600 and almost 112,000 have recovered, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
Despite the rising number of cases, the majority of people who contract the virus suffer only mild symptoms before making a recovery.