- Mark Kinver
- Environment Reporter, BBC
Air pollution has long been one of the most damaging forms of environmental damage.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that polluted air kills approximately seven million people all over the world every year.
The data also shows that 9 out of 10 people on the planet breathe air that exceeds the WHO recommended limits for pollutant levels.
However, the global covid-19 pandemic showed how quickly it was possible to clean the air in cities by reducing traffic.
Emissions from burning fossil fuels account for almost a quarter of CO2 emissions from human activities.
Therefore, the impact on transportation of landfills around the world during the covid-19 pandemic was relevant.
According to the International Energy Agency, the global average activity on our roads fell by almost 50% compared to 2019.
And the results on air quality could be seen with the naked eye.
In a short space of time, urban areas saw massive reductions in a variety of pollutants associated with internal combustion engines.
In the case of the United Kingdom, for example, data collected by the National Center for Atmospheric Sciences showed marked reductions in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) in 10 cities.
In India, people shared images of clear skies on social media after about 90% reduction in road trips during lockdown.
In April, Sunil Dahiya from India’s Clean Air and Energy Research Center told the BBC: “The current crisis has shown us that clear skies and very fast breathable air can be achieved if concrete steps are taken to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. “
However, just as air quality improved with reduced traffic, it appears that pollution returned to its usual levels just as quickly once restrictions were relaxed.
Little impact on CO2 concentrations
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) stated that the global response to the covid-19 crisis has had little impact on continuously increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
Although carbon emissions were drastically reduced during lockdowns, WMO data showed that this only slightly slowed the overall rise in concentrations.
Details were published in the WMO annual greenhouse gas bulletin.
During the closures, there were widespread calls for the environmental benefits to be maintained.
Those who defended these measures argued that it was essential that economic growth after the pandemic be focused on following a sustainable and low-emission path.
But despite those calls, it seems like the priority remains getting back to normal, regardless of the cost.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.