Environmentalists and scientists alike have been shockingly yet pleasantly surprised at the effect of the near global COVID-19 shutdown on pollution, especially in China.
As roads have cleared, economic activity has slowed, and auto and air traffic has declined, there has been a clear drop in pollution and emissions.
The European Space Agency has released a breathtaking new video in which you can see how pollution in China has decreased exponentially as a result of slowed production and traffic from the virus. The data also shows that as soon as the quarantine was lifted, emissions and pollution skyrocketed back up, showing us just how severely our human footprint hurts the environment.
Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels were highlighted in both China and Italy.
The ESA stated: “As news of the coronavirus broke out in the Hubei province, China, in late December 2019, stricter measures were put in place. As a result, by late January, factories were closed and streets were cleared as Chinese authorities had ceased daily activities to stop the spread of the illness.
This led to the dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide concentrations—those released by power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles—in all major Chinese cities between late-January and February. The drop in concentrations also coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations, which usually sees a similar drop in concentrations each year..
“By combining satellite observations with detailed computer models of the atmosphere, their studies indicated a reduction of around 20-30 percent in surface particulate matter over large parts of China. In China, life is slowly returning to normal, as people are beginning to go back to work and public spaces are slowly becoming filled as they once were”.
While the threats and suffering brought about from this virus will never be forgotten, there is a potential silver lining in reconsidering how we are engaging with our environment within larger conversations about climate change and our human footprint.
While this short period will not have any withstanding long term environmental benefits, it does give us something to think about in terms of our behaviors and unsustainable production processes.
According to Forbes, implications drawn from this data “suggests that the decrease in carbon emissions as a result of the economic slowdown means the EU should back off on its green deal measures to completely decarbonise the bloc by 2050, because emissions are going down on their own.
But French President Emmanuel Macron has said it’s essential for the EU’s economic recovery measures to have emissions reduction at their core”.
Check out the powerful footage above to see for yourself just how drastic this shift has been!