Introducing an In-depth Analysis of Decreasing Pollution related to Coronavirus Outbreak in Italy

In the following weeks, as an information network devoted to sustainability, we will try to look at current coronavirus outbreak from an economic perspective, to implement and offer an analysis on good practices that shall be implemented as soon as the direct emergency ends. We want to dedicate our effort to all the victims and families deeply damaged by the pandemic, as well as all the people that are constantly working to save lives.  

Bitterly, economists might serve under these situations to read the present for assessing and try to prevent future damages. We intend to serve in this purpose with all due respect.

Since over three months ago, Cina has been affected by a virus that overstepped Asiatic borders and arrived in Europe within a few weeks. 

The “deadlock” of the country provoked a slowing down in transports and economic sectors such as flying, logistics, commercial distribution etc. As a result, environment was affected in a positive way. In fact, experts noticed a decrease in GHGs emission by 25%, something never happened before in China, an overpopulated country that is still highly dependent on coal as primary energy source.  

According to the Climate Index Risk, 500,000 victims have been caused by meteorological effects exacerbated by climate change. Moreover, World Health Organization states that deaths will increase, reaching 250,000 per year. The scenario seems apocalyptic, yet the choices of national governments do not reflect serious concerns (for example, only a few countries in the world had a clear transition to renewable energy). Particularly, governments’ measures taken to face climate change cannot be compared to those concerning the virus. This can be explained by the assumption that people’s adversity of risk is higher for Covid-19 than climate change.

Giovanni Carrosio, professor at the University of Trieste, tried to explain the irrationality of risk by comparing travelling by car with travelling by plane. Rationally, the latter transport would be safer, and yet most people prefer the former one. Actually, the probability of dying by car is 1 over 103, while the likelihood of a person to die by plane is 1 over 188,364.

For what concerns COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, Doctor Milena Gabanelli’s Dataroom outlined the short-term situation, having most data explicitly covered. ASPI data outlined an 18% reduction in highway traffic (-20% light car traffic, +2% heavy truck traffic). School and business closure have also caused a reduction in CO2 emissions, as well as airline traffic reduction. Air currents did also play a role in reducing CO2 presence in the atmosphere surrounding Italy. All these events caused, in the short term, a reduction in CO2 by 428,000 tons in the three regions most affected by COVID-19. This numbers only reflect the first week and will exponentially grow as long as these restrictive measures are kept. These measures must be analyzed in the long term to have scientific relevance, and we will do so as soon as AQI, ISPRA and ARPA data will be updated. Only time will mutate collective perception into real consequences.  

2020-02-14 Image taken by Copernicus Sentinel-5P Satelite
2020-03-08 Image taken by Copernicus Sentinel-5P Satelite

On the other side, it must be acknowledged that Human and Economic costs will be monstrous. We state this to clarify that the data on CO2 reduction, and consequent social welfare increase, will be analyzed only as an empiric opportunity to evaluate smart working policies, shorter supply chains. A model that we should aim in reaching as soon as this emergency will end. We say this by remembering that any economic assessment of human health, in particular Value of Statistical Life (VOSL), takes health into account related to human productivity. Restrictive measures that prevent the citizen from working or going to school undermine any evaluation attempt. 

In the next article, to keep following COVID-19 outbreak consequences, we will assess “positive” CO2-health related changes that in the long term might affect workers’ and citizens’ life. The data that we are taking into account comprehend PM10, PM 2.5 and NO2 in the atmosphere.  

Useful Links for insights:

Milena Gabbanelli, Coronavirus ed emission di CO2, l’aria è più pulita ma non è una buona notizia: perchè? https://www.corriere.it/dataroom-milena-gabanelli/coronavirus-ed-emissioni-co2-l-aria-piu-pulita-ma-non-buona-notizia-perche/3f1d4156-62d6-11ea-a693-c7191bf8b498-va.shtml

Jonathan Watts, Coronavirus could cause fall in global CO2 emissions. Responses to utbreak also show how governemtn policy and behavioural changes can have impact https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/10/coronavirus-could-cause-fall-in-global-co2-emissions

Video:

Minute Earth, How Do Greenhouse Gases Actually Work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTvqIijqvTg

Database:

ARPA Lombardia https://www.arpalombardia.it/Pages/Ricerca-Dati-ed-Indicatori.aspx

World Air Quality Index Project https://aqicn.org/city

What’s in your climate agreement? – Konrad Luders

On December 12th 2015 the governments of 196 nations have finally decided to work together against climate change, a problem known to exist for more than four decades… starting in 2020! But can this be it? Have our governments really just managed to conserve a habitable planet for humans? Or is it too early to pad ourselves on the back just yet?
While it should be acknowledged that this is a big step forward, compared to previous agreements, the deal holds next to no legally binding regulations and the countries mainly responsible for the current state of the environment managed to avoid legal responsibility. Leveling off of emissions will not happen until the second half of this century. Even insurances that are mentioned in the agreement will not cover the main risks of climate change; rising sea levels, vanishing drinking water and droughts. Leaving small countries vulnerable. Only time will tell if this agreement is truly a success. I sure hope it will be, but sadly I’m pessimistic.
But what can we do in the meantime? We don’t have to wait for governments to start acting, do we? We all have the power to make changes every day, no matter how incremental they might seem.
Every time we step inside a car, we can ask ourselves if there are other means of transportation we could be using instead. Maybe we can spend the next vacation exploring the country we already live in, instead of flying half way across the globe.
The livestock sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. So, every time we are about to buy or order meat we can stop and think about a vegetarian alternative instead. This does not mean we cannot eat meat anymore. We can eat as much or as little meat as we feel comfortable with. But, if we just stop and consider the consequences every single time, I’m sure more often than not we are going to choose the vegetarian meal instead.
About 1/4 of all food purchased ends up in the trash. That’s not only a waste of resources, but also a waste of money. Between eating leftovers and small scale biogas plants, there are plenty of ways to re-use food waste.
We can look for sustainable alternatives to big banks who keep investing in fossil fuels and move our money to those investing in sustainable small and large scale projects instead. Or, if we’re too attached to our bank, because the IBAN we have is just soooo perfect, we can at least voice our desire for more sustainable investments to our bank. There are energy providers out there who re-invest their profit in the establishment of more sustainable energy sources instead of paying big bonuses to their managers. They deserve more customers.
And finally, remember to ask yourself: “Do I really need another t-shirt?”
Learning about all of these alternatives is not only the right thing to do, it can be a lot of fun and very satisfying as well!!
Change the world! I know you can!

This post is written by Konrad Luders.

EuroEnviro2016  |  Vice Project Coordinator
Website: euroenviro.org

Ever Heard of: Sustainable goals by UN

From this week and till a distant future, I will be talking about ‘Ever heard of’. I’m sure you must have heard about what I am going to write about in this post or in the future, however, my aim is some people who may not know about it, will eventually know through my posts.

Today, I will talk about Sustainable goals proposed by UN. I never heard about it until today. If countries succeed in meeting the goals, by 2030 there will be an end to poverty, hunger, child labour, AIDS and various other problems that blight millions of lives globally.

You can find the main UN’s proposed ideas here. It is a 35 page document released by UN to all countries to follow their proposed idea and summary is available too.

When I read some of the goals, I start laughing. Gender equality and poverty won’t be achieved too soon. You might call me a pessimist but I like to speak my mind here.

Zero hunger – I don’t know what they mean by that. We won’t get hungry anymore. Well, honestly if that happens, there is not going to any war or corruption because mostly what we do is to feed our empty stomach but oh wait I forgot about greed.

Clean Water and sanitation – clearly they haven’t been to India yet.

These goals are not legally binding so it is up to the different countries to follow these or not. A part of me is happy that at least these goals are out there for a country to follow. Goal 17 is meant for implementation. It aims to provide more financial resources and promote the development and dissemination of environmentally sound technologies in developing countries.

Source : Carbon Brief, UN

My two cents on Milan’s Expo 2015!

I know I should have written this post long time ago. Even though I went to Expo 10 days ago, I should have went there before (less people would have been there) and this review might have helped some people weather to go there or not. But it might help you right now. What do I think about Milan Expo? – ‘A Glorified Disaster’.

I must say I had high expectations from it. More on sustainability terms and less on food. The Capital expenditure has soaked up €1.3 billion (£930 million). Some 145 nations are taking part – 54 with their own pavilions, which is 12 more than Shanghai managed at the last Universal Expo in 2010. Between them, the nations have tipped in €1.1 billion (£785 million). Running costs will be more than €800 million (£570 million). More than 10 million have already visited this expo. In terms of organization, it wasn’t so bad. But where was sustainability?

Italy did manage to organize it well. I have to give it that. But India did not participate in this event, which was a huge disappointment for me. I was really looking forward to go to this pavilion but to my surprise it was not on the list. After further research, I got to know that because of diplomatic tensions, India pulled out of the at the last event.

Some 140 countries showcased their local food. Some used sustainability as a showcase in agriculture but that was it. It was all food. Some were selling their garments to people. It was kind of flea market expo. If you have patience to stand in queue for 3 hours to know that cuisine of Korea, be my guest. I took the brochure and read what kind of food they are planning to show inside. My suggestion would be (if you still want to attend this event) go there early. As early as 9am and stay there till 23hrs to catch up on as many things as you can. It is indeed to much to see. Over priced, less quantity food.

Carbon bubble threat from climate change!

A carbon bubble is the idea that there is a bubble in valuation of companies related to fossil-fuel-based energy production. This is because true costs of carbon dioxide in intensifying global warming are not taken into account in a company’s stock market valuation. Currently the price of fossil fuels companies shares is calculated under the assumption that all fossil fuel reserves will be consumed. Author Bill McKibben has estimated that to sustain human life in the world, up to $20tn worth of fossil fuel reserves will need to remain in the ground. The Stern report in 2006 stated that the benefits of strong, early action to decrease the use of oil, coal and gas considerably outweigh the costs. Fossil fuel contributors, the building industry, and land use practices ignore the responsibility of the external costs and ignore the polluter pays principle according to which climate change costs will be paid by historical climate polluters.

Some say that the companies should be forced to show their green gas emissions and then calculate the risk it poses, however, many firms do not feel threatened by carbon bubble argument. They acknowledge the climate change but at the moment Carbon Bubble poses no threat to them. If you apply the Carbon Bubble theory and strictly implement all the anti pollution policies, the firms market share would rapidly go out because if their reserve of fossil fuel is not used then they are over valued. It poses serious threat to the country’s economy too.

Bank of England investigated the risk of Carbon Bubble. They inquired a possible economic crash if the climate change rules ever came into use. Maybe that’s why some countries are reluctant to implement strict Climate change policies. It’s interesting that if you read this article on the “the Guardian’, someone mentioned in the ‘Comments Section’ that even if the country never implement strict climate change policies, they still will eventually have an economic crash.

Another report says the same if we implement such policies, there will be world economic crash. We will lose trillion of dollars in business. Stern said that far from reducing efforts to develop fossil fuels, the top 200 companies spent $674bn (£441bn) in 2012 to find and exploit even more new resources, a sum equivalent to 1% of global GDP, which could end up as “stranded” or valueless assets. HSBC warned that 40-60% of the market capitalisation of oil and gas companies was at risk from the carbon bubble, with the top 200 fossil fuel companies alone having a current value of $4tn, along with $1.5tn debt.

What is your take on this?

Source: Wikipedia, Economist, Carbon Brief, The Guardian

Our blog has been selected as part of Sustainability project from University of Bologna

4 months ago when we started this blog, we were not expecting to get this over-whelming response from people. I love when my friends tell me that they read our posts and we talk for hours about other ways of sustainability or some other posts that I might be interested to read because it talks about the same theme.

But to top that was the great news we got when we were told that University of Bologna has selected our blog as a part of their sustainability project.

The site is in Italian. Apparently even I wasn’t aware of it but get this ‘University of Bologna is the most sustainable university in Italy’. I am not surprised to know this however I feel proud that my University is at least doing something apart from just teaching the course.

UNIBO organizes various Sustainability project. The office is in Bologna. It has three parts of Sustainability 1) Energy 2) Mobility 3) Environment

It comes up with various innovative means to be more sustainable. For example – understanding the consumption of energy by one particular building and on how to reduce the consumption (reducing the waste). I am looking forward to various projects of this university. Maybe in future, I would be a part of one project.

I feel honored that I am part of this University.

How to finance SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

With all the Grexit and Iranian atom discussions you may missed some important news when it comes to sustainable development.

This days the third international conference on financing for development is happening in Addis Abeba, the capital of Ethiopia. The people that meet there are ministers for foreign affairs and finances from all over the world, and they discuss on how to spend more than 172.000 billion dollars over the next 15 years. The main goal for them is to fulfill the so called new sustainable development goals SDGS that will replace the old millennium development goals MDGS that have been criticised by a lot of experts working in the field and will expire this year.

The goals that have to be reached in the SDGS are somewhat the same as the ones of the previous years: the reduction of poverty and hunger, the incentivation of a sustainable economic growth, to preserve the environment, and to protect the human rights and the empowerment of woman rights. 

This agenda post 2015 tries to reduce all kinds of inequality. This is also true for all kinds of economic inequality in terms of trade, no country should be left behind alone while facing all the challenges that await in the next 15 years. Therefore the 130 countries that are represented at the conference have to act now!

Here is the link to the live stream of the conference. Right now the main committee is convened. Check it out!

LIVE STREAM

(image: UN Headquarter Addis Abeba)