A Breath of Fresh Air: Air Pollution Drops During COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic is a true crisis in every sense of the word. It has swept the globe and caused unprecedented disruption. As countries all around the world try to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents. But of course, this hasn’t happened in the way anyone would want. A decrease in traffic and commercial and industrial activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a temporary decrease in pollution.
Air pollution has intensified the pandemic, but the pandemic has—temporarily—cleaned the skies. As cities, some of the entire nations are under lockdown, Earth-observing satellites have detected a significant decrease in the concentration of a common air pollutant.
Air Pollution in China
A striking reduction has also been observed in China as the country seeks to control the spread of COVID-19, fewer cars are driving, fewer factories are running, people are instructed to stay home. Air pollution levels have dropped by roughly a quarter over the last month as coal-fired power plants and industrial operations have decreased rapidly. Levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant primarily from burning fossil fuels, were down as much as 30%, according to NASA.
NASA’s Earth Observatory pollution satellites show “significant decreases” in air pollution over China since the coronavirus outbreak began.
A similar effect has been seen in northern Italy. While in New York, scientists at Columbia University reported a 5-10 percent drop in CO2 emissions this week as traffic levels fell 35 percent. Similarly, in the UK air pollution levels dropped significantly. Studies show that some cities have seen nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels fall by up to 60% on the same period last year.
Effects of Air Pollution in Environment
But the environmental benefits could be short-lived. China is reopening factories as the country seems like it got coronavirus spread under control. If necessary measures are not taken to keep the world's air at a safe level, and target the source of the pollution, the current progress most likely will not last long. When the coronavirus threat disappears, the negative effects of air pollution on climate, environment will continue, as we will return to our old habits, old way of doing business.
The resulting drop in air pollution, is already making news headlines. But with the pandemic yet to peak in most countries, the wider impacts for a world attempting to slow climate change are still far from clear.
The next article during COVID-19 pandemic will be about the effects of carbon footprint.