Coronavirus & pollution

Levels of air pollutants and warming gases over some cities and regions are showing significant drops as coronavirus impacts work and travel.

Researchers in New York told the BBC, their early results showed carbon monoxide mainly from cars, had been reduced by nearly 50% compared with last year and emissions of CO2 have also fallen sharply.

With global economic activity significantly reduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, emissions of a variety of gases related to energy and transport are reduced.

While it is early days, data collected in New York this week suggests that instructions to curb unnecessary travel are having a significant impact. Traffic levels in the city were estimated to be down 35% compared with a year ago. Emissions of carbon monoxide have fallen by around 50% for a couple of days this week according to research carried out by Colombia University. They also found a 5-10% drop in CO2 over New York and a drop-in methane as well.

Both China and Northern Italy have also recorded significant falls in nitrogen dioxide which is related to reduced car journeys and industrial activity.

With airline flights seriously limited and millions of people now working from home, a range of emissions across many countries are likely following the same downward path. While people working from home will likely increase the use of home heating and electricity, the curbing of commuting and the general slowdown in economies globally will undoubtedly likely have a positive impact on overall emissions.

The key issue and what are likely to make a major difference to the scale of carbon emissions and air pollution, is how governments decide to re-stimulate their economies once the pandemic eases.

In the 2008-09, after the global financial crash, carbon emissions shot up by 5% as a result of stimulus spending that boosted fossil fuel use.

In the coming months, governments will have a chance to alter that outcome. For example, they could insist that any bailout of airlines would be tied to far more stringent reductions in aviation emissions.


Whilst the universe and mother nature are trying to teach us our lessons, we must take heed of those lessons. It’s not enough for us to stay home and ignore the warnings of what the Coronavirus is teaching or telling us. It is important we use what we know to change the way we do things.

We have an opportunity to build on creating a safer planet and that is what we must do. Not to means we ignore these things at our peril.

*For those dealing with the virus, I wish you a speedy recovery, I hope those who don’t have the virus please stay safe and well.*


20 Mar, 2020

2 thoughts on “Coronavirus & pollution

  1. My view is this pandemic is the planet’s way of ‘checking and balancing.’ We have over-consumed, over-populated and polluted since the industrial revolution to breaking point so we shouldn’t be at all surprised.

    This is a serious warning. Last chance saloon, change or be changed. As you say it is now incumbent on all countries to come together and never let this happen again.

    1. Thanks. Yes, you’re absolutely right. ‘Last chance saloon, change or be changed’ – good analogy.

      This isn’t up for debate, we must change and act NOW. We are breaking point. Mother nature and the universe has spoken.

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