Pollution Plummets During Pandemic - At a High Price
It comes at a terrible price: death, misery and economic hardship, but the traffic-free roads, plane-free skies and business closings of COVID-19 have led to a measurable decrease in pollution.
Blue skies over California, fresher air in New York City, a relief from the suffocating pollution of India, and reduced nitrogen dioxide levels around the world are a small sliver of a silver lining in the pandemic.
“Preventative measures recently adopted to prevent further spread of COVID-19 have prompted an overall slowdown in economic activity and fewer vehicles on the roadways,” said Dr. Aaron Naeger, a NASA scientist. “Since combustion engine powered vehicles can represent a major source of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, less traffic on the roadways may lead to a significant reduction in NO2 concentrations.”
In the United States, the decrease in emissions is most notable in traffic-prone California, which was the first state to issue a stay-at-home order.
Satellite images from the European Space Agency show reduced levels of nitrogen dioxide, which causes respiratory problems, in major cities including Paris, Madrid and Rome as countries lock down and restrict travel, Time reported. China saw a 25 percent drop in the emission of greenhouse gases.
In the U.K., a recent report estimates that the country’s emissions will drop by 28.22 million tons over the 12-week period following the implementation of social distancing measures on March 19.
“The air is definitely much healthier,” Professor James Lee at York University told FoxNews. “These are big changes – pollution levels are the equivalent at the moment of a holiday, say an Easter Sunday.”
“And I think we will see an even starker drop off when the weather changes.”
While the change is somewhat miraculous in the short-term, scientists doubt it will make a dent in the effort against the climate crisis.
In fact, efforts to quickly jump start economies may lead governments around the world to relax environmental regulations. Pollution levels will return to and possibly exceed pre-coronavirus levels.
“There’s a quantifiable temporary benefit,” Joseph Majkut, director of climate policy at the Niskanen Center, told The Atlantic. “But as we go about our recovery, I think we’ll go back to business as usual."
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Thank you Jerry Monkman / ecophotography.com, Lynne Holton, Kindra Clineff, Adrian Scholes and John Raleigh.