Climate and Environment

10 Aug 2021

Global Air Pollution Falls amid Covid Lockdowns

Global Air Pollution Falls amid Covid Lockdowns

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Did you know that South East Asia saw a reduction in the level of air pollution caused by traffic and energy production by as much as 40% in 2020? Other continents including Europe and North America also saw an improvement in the air quality during the pandemic.


Dr Oksana Tarasova, at the World Meteorological Organization WMO, shed light on how the lack of harmful micro particles in the air has led to the increased chances of a naturally occurring ozone layer. While many people have welcomed the cleaner air as it causes less breathing difficulties, it has been noticed that even with reduced emissions, the quality of air may still not meet the WHO requirements.


During the pandemic, carbon emission caused by human activity fell greatly, this was mainly due to restricted public movement and lockdowns. However, the pandemic also paved way for weather extremes which were a result of environmental change. The June 2020 dust cloud was just one of them, the largest dust storm ever been on record. Other than that, Countries such as the U.S, Siberia and Australia were ravaged by wildfires which negatively impacted the air quality.


Air pollution is known to impact human health in a number of ways. The Global Burden of Disease Assessment pointed out that the mortality rate has increased to 4.5 million in 2019, with 92% deaths related to particulates and 8% from ozone.


The Air Quality and Climate Bulletin has been set up to study air pollutants in 25 countries. Analysis from observation has shown that there was a decrease of 30-40% in PM2.5 concentrations during the ongoing lockdown of 2020.


The changes occurring to the ozone layer concentrations varied from region to region. For example, sulfur dioxide concentrations were between 25-60% last year as compared to a higher level in 2019 and prior. Carbon monoxide also fell greatly in most regions, but especially in South America with a drop of 40%.