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Environment

Air Pollution Drops Due to Coronavirus Shutdowns


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Air pollution poses significant health risks and is responsible for nearly one-third of deaths from lung cancer and heart disease. Global Goal 13 aims to mitigate air pollution and the effects of climate change. Join us and take action on this issue here.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has caused a temporary decline in air pollution across the globe. 

Business shutdowns and travel restrictions have reduced overall traffic, resulting in an unintended decline in global air pollution, especially in China and Italy — the countries with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. 

China currently has 81,601 cases, while Italy has around 59,138, according to the World Health Organization.

NASA’s Earth Observatory released a series of satellite images on March 4 showing a dramatic decrease in air pollution across the two nations. 

"As for the environmental benefits we see from the slowdown of day-to-day life and economic activity in terms of improving air quality and other slight benefits, it’s a good sign that our ecosystems are somewhat resilient if we don’t completely destroy them," Peter Gleick, climate scientist and founder of Pacific Institute, told CNBC. 

While the decline in air pollution is temporary, scientists are still unsure of the pandemic’s long-term impact on climate change as a whole.

The coronavirus will diminish investments in sustainable energy and hinder efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Because of this, the IEA has urged nations to put together stimulus packages to help continue to combat the effects of climate change throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Climate experts have also warned of the likelihood that the coronavirus outbreak will halt progress on climate change.

The coronavirus’s impact on the global economy could cause countries and corporations to delay or completely abandon current environmental projects due to financial strain.

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On March 17, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babiš urged the European Union to cancel the Green Deal, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Climate scientist Sarah Myhre noted that the global response to the coronavirus pandemic will directly impact the fight against climate change.

"If the actions here continue to bail out fossil fuel companies and multinational corporations and banks, and invest in fossil fuel infrastructure, then we are digging a hole deeper into a more violent and dangerous place," Myhre told CNBC.

You can see all of Global Citizen's COVID-19 coverage here.

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