How is COVID-19 affecting Pollution worldwide?

According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 28% of greenhouse gas emissions are sourced from transportation. In 2019, Greta Thunberg educated the world with her passionate and informative speeches about how future generations could gravely suffer due to the substantial amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. In 2020, the world was hit with a highly contagious virus, COVID-19, which brought on extensive social distancing practices and stay at home orders and has significantly reduced travel.

A stay at home order is a state-mandated action that has been taken towards minimizing the spread of the coronavirus. Since most of America’s non-essential workers and students are at home there has been a considerably large amount of reduced traffic flow of transportation.

According to NASA’s, the Northeastern part of the United States has seen a substantial reduction of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)  in the air. NO2 is a chemical compound that is commonly found when gas or fossil fuels are burned which can affect the respiratory system and reduce air quality.

“These recent improvements in air quality have come at a high cost,” NASA’s article states, “As communities grapple with widespread lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders as a result of the spread of COVID-19.”

NASA also uses a model from 2015 to 2019 to compare the difference over the years. The animation depicts a gradual movement along the North Eastern side of the U.S. and as the satellite approaches Mar. 2020 the dark purple coloring (High Concentration of NO2) shrinks significantly.

Trends such as the North-Eastern part of the U.S. are being seen from all over the globe, especially in places like China and cities in India. According to an article from CNN, the visibility of cities in India has cleared up due to lockdown.

“Nitrogen dioxide went from 52 per cubic meter to 15 in the same period — also a 71% fall,” CNN stated.

Although this is a positive change in the number of harmful gases that have been emitted in the atmosphere, it is unfortunate that a pandemic has to occur to reach these low numbers. 

COVID-19 is very infectious and the fact that it has claimed many lives, and yet is still benefiting the planet is melancholy. As a direct result of decreased activity and quarantine, air pollution numbers are lower than before. If a pandemic is a temporary fix, what can we do to make our Earth healthier without a pandemic?