An Unlikely Beneficiary of COVID-19: The Planet

It seems the COVID-19 lockdown in China had an unintended benefit — blue skies. The average number of “good quality air days” increased 22% in February, compared to the same period last year, according to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment. 

Satellite images released by NASA and the European Space Agency show a dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions — those released by vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities — in major Chinese cities between January and February. The visible cloud of toxic gas hanging over industrial powerhouses almost disappeared. 

A similar pattern has emerged with carbon dioxide, released by burning fossil fuels such as coal. From February 3 to March 1, CO2 emissions were down by at least 25% because of measures to contain the coronavirus. 

As the world’s biggest polluter, China contributes 30% of the world’s CO2 emissions annually, so the impact of this kind of drop is huge, even over a short period. 


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