Features Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 7

COVID-19: Our Solution for Climate Change?

by Ally Hoogs

Las Lomas students are currently restricted for 3 weeks inside their houses while shut-downs of all non-essential businesses continue to ramp up throughout the state, leaving the climate to its own devices

A freshman mentioned that fewer factories “have not been running as much, [making] a lot less smog,” they noted in areas like Venice and China, which has witnessed many transformations in the past several months. 

The new respiratory disease that ignited in late February has grown so far as to be a global pandemic, but it may be their solution to a better climate.

NASA reported that this year, 2020, “values in eastern and central China were significantly lower (from 10 to 30 percent lower) than what is normally observed for this time period.”

In the same report, nitrogen dioxide levels have not gone back up in density, making the rate noticeably different than previous years. Liu noted that “the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer…because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize the spread of the virus.”

Fei Liu, a NASA air quality researcher, said, “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” regarding the immense drop in air pollution levels in mainland China. 

“NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) [a gas that is a waste product of factories and cars] over China. There is evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus,” as said by a report of satellite data from Nasa.gov. 

However, these findings are usual for this time of year with lunar new year and celebrations ordinarily shutting down China’s industry, lowering the amount of NO2 levels, and after the holiday the density goes back up the scale. 

Therefore, the typical density of the NO2 should be bumped up in cubic meters, as scientists like Liu predicted. But there’s one problem.

It hasn’t reverted.

On February 10-25 of 2019, the density of pollutant gasses (including NO2) was at dangerously high levels. Greater than 500m2 in some areas of China and down to 250m2 in others. 

On February 10-25 of 2020, the density in most areas of China were less than 25m of nitrogen dioxide, according to data collected by NASA and ESA satellites.

The water canals and air quality in Venice are starting to take a turn for the better. “The air…is less polluted since there are fewer vaporetti [canal boats] and boat traffic than usual because of the restricted movement of residents,” commented a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office in Venice, who was interviewed by CNN. 

This has only happened in places where complete lockdowns are in effect, but if “things get really bad and no one is allowed to drive around…by then there would be no CO2 from cars, boats, factories, and planes in the U.S.” as said by an anonymous student, amidst the new lockdown issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom, on Thursday, March 19. 

According to some, the global shutdowns may be a step into cleaner air in and around the Bay Area, as well as internationally. 

An anonymous junior reported that “the air, with less commuting and factories running on a day to day basis, will help the world, including the Bay Area, have better air and environments.” 

She made sure to mention, however, that currently in the Bay Area there will not be less pollution or reduced climate change effects because “we [the Bay Area] are not in a state where all transport is cut off, which isn’t going to help [the climate] very much since people are still moving around.”

Although this is a rapid story where every day there is something new, there are some measurable incidents in and around Europe that are benefitting the overall health of the planet and sustainability of its natural resources and natural waterways.