Through all of the change and tragedy that the global pandemic of COVID-19 has brought, there has been a silver lining to millions of people staying home and being in quarantine. Beginning in late December, cities in China went on lockdown to prevent the virus spread. Since the lockdown, there has been a dramatic decline in the deadly pollution levels of Nitrogen Oxide(NO2) and other greenhouse gasses.
Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement, "This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event.”
Less Nitrogen Oxide in the air is Marshall Burke, a scientist from Stanford University, calculated that the health benefits of the fall in pollution have “likely saved the lives of 4,000 kids under five and 73,000 adults over 70 in China.” He writes that, “thelives saved due to the pollution reductions are roughly 20x the number of lives that have been directly lost to the virus[so far].”
Scientists are seeing similar things happening with the air and water spaces in Italy. The country has been on lockdown since March 10th, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions by 40%. Citizens took to twitter and Instagram to share the clear waters in Venice due to the lockdown. With industrial plants at a stand still, and the airways clear due to travel bans, it has allowed the Earth to take a break from the constant gasses that are being pushed into the air.
Environmental scientists have predicted that a similar trend will sweep across cities in the United States as more and more people practice social distancing and stay at home. Researchers at Columbia University, saw the emissions of carbon monoxide subside by 50% in the past week, due to the businesses that aren’t operating and less vehicles being on the roads.
Although this good news comes at a time when we are all desperately searching for some, there is a fear that future acceleration of industry as an attempt to recover the economic impact of the virus will reverse any good that has been done. We can only hope that big corporations and governments will see the impact that the change in emissions brings, and choose to change their ways of operation.