The environmental impact of COVID-19 and will robots replace animals in captivity?

The pandemic’s environmental impact, new estimates of population decline and are robotic aquariums the future? Our round-up of provoking thoughts, penetrating insights and digital curiosities.

Studying the pandemic’s environmental impact

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the environment can be monitored and studied thanks to a collaboration between agencies in the US, the European Union and Japan, Yale Environment 360 reports. A new tool uses data from 17 satellites and a wide range of indicators to show changes in air and water quality, greenhouse gases and agriculture. The information can be examined at a global, regional or local level, potentially providing critical insights for policymakers.

Read more: Climate change, biodiversity and epidemics: Lessons for the next global crisis

New estimates of population decline

The world population is expected to peak at around 9.7 billion people in 2064 – and then decline to about 8.8 billion by 2100, according to a new study. The decline in fertility – greater than some previous estimates – is due to higher levels of female education and improved access to contraception, Science Daily says.  By 2100 there will be an estimated 2.37 billion people over the age of 65, with 1.7 billion under the age of 20 – with more than twice as many people over 80 as under five. The shrinking workforce poses challenges for economic growth and could have implications for geopolitical power linked to shifts in population.

Read more: Ten ways the longevity economy is changing the way we live now

More years of ill health

At the same time, as we live longer we are likely to suffer more years of poor health, according to a study from University College London. People in their 40s and 50s are more likely to suffer from conditions such as diabetes and obesity than those already in their 60s and 70s. This has significant implications for healthcare services, the researchers say.

Read more: How COVID-19 might impact the longevity economy

Robots free up scientists’ time

Scientists have been using robots to help with experiments during the coronavirus lockdown, the BBC reports. Developers at the UK’s University of Liverpool have been able to increase the pace of their research by using the technology to process samples to free up time so they can focus on innovation and new solutions. One robot is currently working on a study involving solar cells but could potentially be used in research around COVID-19.

Read more: Post-COVID-19, innovations in healthcare are here to stay

Are animatronic aquariums the future?

Meanwhile animatronic dolphins could soon be coming to aquariums in China, according to The Guardian – providing an alternative to keeping the mammals in captivity. The robot creatures are being designed by a team from New Zealand and the US to look and behave like the real thing, and the plan has been welcomed by animal rights advocates.

Read more: What is the future of a cashless society in a post-COVID-19 world?

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