Silver linings to the coronavirus – reduced human activity helps the environment.

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While most people in the world are cooped up indoors, shielding ourselves from the coronavirus, the environment outside is healing itself and getting cleaner. The silver lining to the Covid 19 pandemic is that it may just help us reduce pollution and positively impact climate change!

The Covid – 19 pandemic has forced governments across the globe to take drastic steps. With complete or partial lockdowns in cities, humankind has retreated to its home. Production in factories is slowing down, most vehicles are off the streets and aeroplanes are being slowly grounded. Emissions from all these sources have reduced dramatically and therefore, the air has become cleaner than it has been in a long time.

NASA Earth Observatory images, based on data from the Copernicus satellite. These show that nitrogen dioxide emissions (in yellow and red) dramatically reduced over central China as cities closed down due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Credit: NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY

Images from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite taken between January 1st to March 11th this year, showed that nitrogen dioxide levels have dropped drastically across China as factories remained closed and vehicles remained off the streets. Nitrogen dioxide is an air pollutant produced by the burning of fossil fuels, and by the running of things like cars and factories. It in turn creates and modifies other air pollutants, such as ozone, particulate matter and acid rain. Studies in Europe have shown that exposure to nitrogen dioxide causes acute bronchitis in humans and worsens all types of respiratory disorders. In fact, there is evidence that indicates that long term exposure to nitrogen dioxide can contribute to an early death.

Marshall Burke, an economist of environmental resources at Stanford University, has calculated that this reduction in air pollution is actually saving lives. He calculated the reduction in air pollution during the two months in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic in China and estimated that this reduction has saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70!

The pandemic is a crisis that has taken over all our consciousness today, however, it has shown us what we need to do to nurture and renew our planet to make it more inhabitable for future generations.


Written by: Payal Mehta Agarwal

 

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