Air pollution is declining during the Coronavirus pandemic. Fewer miles are driven. Manufacturing is reduced. Offices shutdown. We see the results as less carbon-based fuels being used.
The change is significant and fast. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, air quality researcher with NASA. Liu cited gradual drops in NO2 during the economic recession that began in 2008. (Source)
During the pandemic parts of China saw “an estimated 25 percent reduction in energy use and emissions over a two-week period compared to previous years.” (Source) Italy saw a decrease, too.
An irony is that the same virus that makes people sick caused a slowdown that can save lives through reduced pollution, some say.
“We’re seeing profound changes in habits and behaviors, the mobilizing of massive resources and a level of global coordination that we haven’t seen before. This is highly relevant to climate action,” said a Massachusetts Institute of Technology lecturer. (Source)
Can that change us and our habits?
“Unlikely” seems to be a prevalent guess. Previous reductions in emissions have been temporary. In the race for recovery, climate concerns have taken a back seat in the past. A surge in emissions is more common, says the World Resources Institute: “After the global financial crisis of 2008, for example, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production grew 5.9 percent in 2010, more than offsetting the 1.4 percent decrease in 2009.” (Source)
The Wall Street Journal said it like this on April 5: “A decade ago, emissions rebounded sharply as governments rolled out economic stimulus packages that often focused on infrastructure and heavy industry. Within two years, global emissions had surpassed their 2008 peak.”
As nations pump money into their economies, there are advocates for using some of the funding for low-carbon and energy resilient projects. Help the climate and the economy, is the thinking.