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  • Erin Taylor

Is COVID-19 Helping the Environment?

Countries that have been under tight lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 have experienced an unintended benefit. The outbreak has, in part, contributed to a noticeable drop in pollution and greenhouse gas emission across the globe.

NBC News said, “Pollution-monitoring satellites operated by NASA and the European Space Agency observed drastic decreases in air pollution over China over two weeks in February when the quarantine was in effect. The satellites measured concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, which is released by cars, power plants and industrial facilities, from Jan. 1 to Jan. 20 and again from Feb. 10 to Feb. 25. The difference was unmistakable.”

This was the first time NASA said it had seen such a dramatic drop-off, too. According to Earth Observatory (EO), carbon dioxide emissions have also decreased.

EO reported, “Oil refinery operations in Shandong province, for instance, were at their lowest since 2015. Average coal consumption at power plants also reached a four-year low. As a result, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were at least 25 percent lower in the two weeks following the Lunar New Year compared to 2019.”

The significance of this drop-off is still undetermined if this time of decreasing air pollution will have a positive effect on climate change.

Leah Knapp, professor of biology and Biology Program Director at Olivet College, said, “This may buy us some extra time to implement more measures to reduce the severity of climate change. Time will tell. A lot depends on whether we return to business as usual or come up with a new normal where we don't go back to a lot of destructive behaviors and misuse of resources. So much depends too on the impacts of the declining economy and how we recover from it. So, it's difficult to say because it all depends on whether we change our old ways or not.”

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