The global economy may be crashing as a result of the coronavirus, but it appears that the slowdown of work and movement may actually be good for the environment. Sattelite images taken in the different parts of the world where there are intense quarantines have shown that there has been a drastic reduction of pollution in these areas. Of course, this has come at a massive cost to the human species, both due to the loss of lives experienced by so many and the extreme economic hardships to come.
The European Space Agency (ESA) released a timelapse video taken from space, which shows how drastically the air pollution has decreased in Italy during the recent lockdown. Claus Zehner, who manages the Copernicus Sentinel-5P, the satellite which took the photos over the Po Valley region, told the Independent that researchers are confident these changes are due to the reduction of activity at factories and on highways.
The satellite can measure concentrations of greenhouse gases and pollutants in the atmosphere, and it is obvious to tell that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over Italy fell dramatically between January 1st and March 11th.
Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said, “Copernicus Sentinel-5P Tropomi is the most accurate instrument today that measures air pollution from space. These measurements, globally available thanks to the free and open data policy, provide crucial information for citizens and decision makers.”
Something similar happened in China during the lockdown of Wuhan.
Satellite images from NASA show falling levels of nitrogen dioxide in the past two months, correlating with the massive factor and travel shut down that has been taking place throughout the country. Scientists with NASA say that the reduction in nitrogen dioxide was first noticed around Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak where the quarantine was first imposed.
When comparing satellite images of the past two years, it is apparent that nitrogen dioxide levels this year are significantly lower than last year.
Now that the whole world is going into quarantine, it is very likely that similar results will be seen throughout the world, even in the United States, which is currently in the process of locking everyone down.
Still, there is a very good chance that this change in the atmosphere will be short-lived because these quarantines will not last forever. It has been reported that people in China are now getting back to work, so before long their emissions will be back to normal. The same can be said for Italy and the other places facing quarantine throughout the world.
However, what we have witnessed in this data over the past few months shows us just how easy it is to reverse the environmental trend that our species has been on for the past few generations. Unfortunately, in this case, it took the threat of a deadly virus and a massive quarantine enforced by law to get this to happen. Still, it does show us just how much progress can be made in a short amount of time.