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What Environmentalists and Agencies Say on Declining Pollution Due to COVID-19?

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), one of the pandemic’s unexpected results has been the remarkable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The pandemic has caused most affected countries to take isolation measures that allowed them to contain the spread of COVID-19. Such actions have had a great impact on the environment. In many nations, […]

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Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash
Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), one of the pandemic’s unexpected results has been the remarkable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The pandemic has caused most affected countries to take isolation measures that allowed them to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Such actions have had a great impact on the environment. In many nations, they have been registered from sightings of animals that have taken over the deserted streets of cities to reduce pollution of rivers and canals such as Venice.

In this context, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA), one of the unexpected results of abrupt socio-economic shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic maybe the extraordinary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The EEA notes that in some parts of China and Europe, “for example, during the period of confinement in northern Italy, other consequences have been observed, such as a temporary reduction in air pollution.”

In this regard, the European Space Agency (ESA) refers that at the end of December 2019, in Hubei, China, stricter confinement measures were implemented that resulted in the closing of “factories and the streets being cleared in January as the Chinese authorities had ceased their daily activities to stop the spread of the disease.

Due to these measures, a reduction in nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the Asian nation was observed from December to March, mainly from “those released by power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles” in all major Chinese cities. 

Decontamination, permanent?

According to environmentalist, Stuart Herbert Scott, this crisis was expected to have a strong impact on production and consumption patterns, “such as the reduction in demand for transport, specifically international air traffic and daily trips of private vehicles.”.

However, he explains that to understand the scope, duration better, and some of the expected and unexpected effects, it is necessary to “analyze data from different areas after the crisis.”

There are large variations in surface concentrations of pollutants, which are due “to weather and expected changes in emissions under ‘business as usual’ conditions, for example, peak hours for traffic or weekends and days working for industries.”

Thus, they refer, the measures taken during Covid-19 do nothing more than add to these changes in emissions.

Similarly, CAMS specialists explain that even in closed conditions, it is unlikely that some emission sources, such as energy production and residential energy use, will notably decrease when people have to stay at home and work from there.

They further argue that while traffic will decline sharply under the closure, in phases before and after the lockdowns, many people will use more private transportation, rather than public transportation, to reduce their contact with others.

They also refer that continuous measures to stop Covid-19 will directly impact nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations since it has a useful life in the atmosphere of the order of one day, so by reducing traffic, emissions of NO2 will be decreased by approximately 40 percent.

The CAMS thus concludes that certainly, the current situation of Covid-19 with various levels of blocking will make it possible to reduce emissions from various sectors, which “will impact the quality of the air we breathe. However, only some sectors are affected, and therefore total emissions are by no means reduced to zero. “

Similarly, EEA specialists believe that without a profound transformation of our production and consumption systems, reducing emissions resulting from economic crises like this one is likely to be short-lived and entail very high costs for society. Also, they argue that despite producing significant temporary reductions in emissions, Covid-19 is and will continue to be a serious public health problem, so it cannot “be perceived in any way as an event with positive results.”

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