Thursday, March 26, 2020
The skies over Wuhan have dramatically reduced air pollution. Maps show a significant reduction in nitrogen dioxide since factories closed and transportation restricted. NASA maps from January 1 and February 25, 2020 show a 30% drop in NO2, which is created through the use of fossil fuels. "According to NASA scientists, the reduction in NO2 pollution was first apparent near Wuhan, but eventually spread across the country."
“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Liu recalls seeing a drop in NO2 over several countries during the economic recession that began in 2008, but the decrease was gradual. Scientists also observed a significant reduction around Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, but the effect was mostly localized around that city, and pollution levels rose again once the Olympics ended.
Italy is experiencing similar environmental improvements. Satellite photographs show a decrease in air pollution. Industrialized northern Italy, in particular, was plagued with serious pollution since well prior to the Coronavirus explosion. For decades, cruise ships have long polluted the bay leading to the canals. And boat traffic in the canals is vastly down.
These environmental improvements may be temporary. Indications are Venice canals have reduced sharply pollution levels. Now residents report that for the first time in decades they can see fish swimming in the canals. However, there is no evidence that governments will change their environmental habits or tie any stimulus packages to environmental improvements. Indeed, some of the biggest polluters, the airlines, may be recipients of large influxes of federal funds. To date, no government has tied stimulus funds to changeover to alternative energy systems.
The earth is offering us a chance to repair environmental harms. Is anyone listening?