With so much negativity in the world today, we're all searching for something positive, something good that can come from of all of this.
Well, here it is: pollution is way down in many areas around the world.
With a higher amount of people working from home these days, and some factories churning out fewer products, climate experts have noticed less air pollution since the pandemic started.
But will this trend continue when the pandemic is over?
“I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way things were. As we emerge from this pandemic, I think we will be smarter and see that you don’t always have to drive into work or you don’t always have to fly in an airplane for that meeting,” University of St. Thomas professor John Abraham says.
Back in March when almost everything was shut down, pollution experts noticed a 15% to 25% drop in nitrogen dioxide in the air across the U.S., compared to the same time last year.
Experts say nitrogen dioxide levels are a great indicator for air pollution overall.
The readings from China were even more impressive.
NASA and European Space Agency satellites captured images that show how nitrogen dioxide levels in China dropped significantly when the stay-at-home order went into effect.
A study put out by Stanford University suggests those reductions likely saved 77,000 lives in China, because people were simply breathing cleaner air.
"It’s providing benefits to people with respiratory problems and with heart problems, and it’s around the world," Abraham says.
The World Health Organization estimates 4.2 million people worldwide die every year due complications with air pollution.
That's six times higher than the number of people who have died from COVID-19, according to the latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University.
"As we use energy more wisely, we're going to save the environment, we're going to save on the cost of transportation, but we're also going to save on our health. We call that a co-benefit, three benefits wrapped into one,” Abraham says.
And with the virus messing up supply chains around the world, it's hard to get certain products.
Abraham says people are learning to simply do without, which might also have an effect on the environment long term.
"We are learning that some things weren't necessary. Some things weren't essential. They were just nice to have,” Abraham says.
And with so many people out of work these days, Abraham says now is the perfect time for the U.S. to invest in clean energy, to create a new industry with new jobs and a new future, to emerge from the chaos of COVID better than before.
"Strife creates change. When everything is easy, we don't go through those tough decisions to improve what we're doing. If we get our act together, we can emerge better off in the future and that’s really the goal.”
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