Air pollution levels have plummeted, it's time we take a lessons

Air pollution levels and warming gases are showing significant drops around the world as the Covid-19 crisis shuts down entire regions.

In particular there was a notably, and unintended, uplifting improvement at one of the world’s most famous tourist spots.

Fish were seen for the first time in generations in cleaner and clearer waters in Venice’s canals as tourism came to a halt.

Satellite images have also been circulating showing how the scale of the powerful lockdowns have reduced air pollution in China and Italy this year.

Photographs from NASA at the beginning of the month outlined the dramatic fall in pollution across China that was "partly related" to the economic slowdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, the space agency said.

Most of the reduction is from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in cities, which can be released from car exhausts. NO2 is not a greenhouse gas but can be harmful for human health by increasing the likelihood of respiratory problems.

Atmospheric particles known as PM 2.5 are also reducing which is a leading environmental cause of poor health. Some experts believe that the thousands of people could benefit from the cleaner air.

"It is possible to estimate that with things at a standstill in China for two months, 80,000 premature deaths have been prevented," said Professor John Wenger from the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry at UCC.

More than 1,000 people in Ireland die prematurely each year as a result of poor air quality, according to the Environment Protection Agency.

Monitoring by the European Space Agency has also revealed the scale of the drop in nitrogen dioxide emissions over Italy following the country suspending nearly all movements.

The north of Italy has been worst hit by the virus, but it is also an area of major activity.

The Po River Valley is the most important economic region in the country as it is the centre of most Italian industry and an agricultural heartland, but work there has seen a dramatic reduction.

 

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