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Earth Day In a Pandemic

Apr 22, 2020

The skies above are clear again, but it’s not automatically happy days for those who study global warming.

The pandemic, which has forced people all around the world to stay inside, has of course resulted in fewer cars on the road, less manufacturing and an overall drop in emissions. And that has led to clear skies in formerly smog-choked cities, and regions.

According to CNBC, “India’s New Delhi recorded a 60% fall of fine particulate matter (PM2.5_ compared to 2019 levels, South Korea’s Seoul registered a 54% drop over the same period, while the fall in China’s Wuhan came in at 44%.”

 “The study also found the city of Wuhan experienced its cleanest air quality on record through February and March this year, while the city of Los Angeles in the U.S. experienced its longest-ever stretch of clean air — meeting the United Nation’s recommended air quality guidelines.”

 But nothing’s that easy or simple,  according to a piece in Wired, and strategic thinking will be vital to recovering economically and environmentally. 

 “We’re getting a taste of how much more livable our cities would be if we designed them for people, not cars. Closing roads to cars altogether—as cities like Boston and Oakland, California, have done during the crisis—means people can walk and bike in safety, itself a boost to public health.”

 However, as experts in the article point out, such a system may not be equitable for  who need transportation for work.

 And then there’s this: “In March, researchers at the University of Washington and Goethe University Frankfurt published a study that quantified one of the stranger consequences of air pollution: It can actually bounce the sun’s energy back into space, thus helping cool the planet.”

 And cheap oil, means cheaper plastic, which will exacerbate the already troubling economics of recycling.

 The pandemic does give us an expected experiment in dramatically lower emissions from fossil fuels.

And even though oil prices are dramatically lower, so are interest rates, which could incentivize develoers of renewable energy systems.

David Harrison