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Has Covid-19 helped ease air pollution?

(Eco Business, 23 Mar 2020) The two-month drop in pollution may have saved more lives in China than the global death toll from the Covid-19 virus, but it should not be considered a “silver lining” of the pandemic, an expert warns.

Air pollution has significantly decreased over China amid the economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, signaling unanticipated implications for human health.

“Given the huge amount of evidence that breathing dirty air contributes heavily to premature mortality, a natural — if admittedly strange — question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from Covid-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself,” Stanford University environmental resource economist Marshall Burke wrote in the global food, environment and economic dynamics blog, G-FEED.

“Even under very conservative assumptions, I think the answer is a clear ‘yes,’” he added.

Following China’s actions to control the spread of the virus via mandatory quarantine, NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites detected a reduction of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)—a gas emitted when fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coal are burned—over China.

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Eco Business, 23 Mar 2020: Has Covid-19 helped ease air pollution?