COVID-19 Has Led to a Global Drop in Air Pollution that Greta Thunberg Would be Proud of


Despite the COVID-19 stealing thousands of lives and wreaking havoc in countries all over the world, some point out that it’s giving our Mother Earth a much-needed break.

This is especially so for climate activists.

COVID-19 Has Led to a Global Drop in Air Pollution that Greta Thunberg Would be Proud of

The COVID-19 pandemic that’s affecting the lives of billions of people all over the world is also shutting down industrial activity.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that this has temporarily slashed air pollution levels around the world too, according to satellite imagery from the European Space Agency shows.

In fact, the change is so significant that one expert even said that the sudden shift represented the “largest-scale experiment ever” in terms of the reduction of industrial emissions.

Image: European Space Agency

Readings from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite have shown that in a short span of just six weeks, levels of nitrogen dioxide over cities and industrial clusters in Asia and Europe were significantly lower than in the same period last year.

But it doesn’t just benefit Mother Earth, it also benefits us, humans.

Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide is produced from car engines, power plans and other industrial processes and is believed to worsen respiratory illnesses like asthma.

Although it isn’t a greenhouse gas, the pollutant stems from the same activities and industrial sectors that are responsible or a large share of the world’s carbon emissions, which in turn results in global heating.

Paul Monks, a professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester said that there are lessons to be learnt from this.

“We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest-scale experiment ever seen,” he said. “Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.”

It is understood that a reduction in air pollution will bring some health benefits, however, it cannot offset the lives lost due to the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization explains that Nitrogen Dioxide is “a toxic gas which causes significant inflammation of the airways” at concentrations above 200 micrograms per cubic meter.

Now, WHO is trying to find out whether airborne pollution particles might be a vector that spreads the coronavirus.

Largest Drop In Pollution Levels Observed In Wuhan, China

One of the largest drops in air pollution levels was observed in Wuhan located in central China.

The 11 million-strong city had been undergoing a lockdown since late January and is home to hundreds of factories supplying car parts and other hardware to global supply chains.


NASA has announced that nitrogen dioxide levels across eastern and central China have been down 10-30%.

The same can be said for other parts of the world like Milan and other parts of northern Italy where air pollution has fallen by around 40%.

These are some pretty large numbers that Greta Thunberg would probably be proud of if it wasn’t sparked by a worldwide pandemic.