Air pollution is a deadly threat, killing millions around the world every year. It’s also linked to more severe outcomes for Covid-19. Conversely, the economic slowdown stemming from Covid-19 showed that reducing pollution yields massive benefits for public health. One researcher estimated that the drop in air pollution in China saved 20 times as many lives as were lost to the virus.
And China isn’t the only place seeing clearer skies. In the United Kingdom, nitrogen dioxide pollution fell 60 percent after the country implemented a lockdown compared to the year prior. A nationwide lockdown in India revealed skylines and mountain vistas that had been obscured for decades.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how quickly air quality can improve. But it doesn’t mean we should celebrate the pandemic for its impact on the environment. The clearer skies came at a devastating social and economic cost. The challenge for countries, then, is to reduce pollution without a massive toll.
Countries like China and the United States are weakening environmental regulations in the hope of helping industries better recover from the slowdown, so the pollution could come back with a vengeance. But it’s worth asking why we tolerated so much dirty air for the sake of the economy for so long and whether there’s a better way. Link