Can You Catch COVID Outdoors?

The correlation between air pollution and the spread explained.

Onoceans

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Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

As an environmental scientist and co-founder of an NGO whose goal is to tackle air pollution in an Asian city; I am well aware that air pollution is terrible. And as a person living through the pandemic in 2020; I am also painfully aware that the coronavirus is awful. Not surprisingly; it is becoming more and more apparent that the two together are nothing short of fatal.

One of the most visible impacts of worldwide lockdowns has been the improvement of air quality in megacities. There were blue skies over Delhi; people could see the Himalayan peaks from Punjab for the first time in this generation. At the first quarter of 2020, China’s emissions fell by 25%. It’s coal use by the largest six power plants fell by 40% compared to the last quarter of 2019. NASA satellites have shown a 30% decrease in air pollution (AP) over New York.

As lockdowns ease, emission levels continue rising steadily.

However, the dip in emissions was short-lived. As lockdowns ease, emission levels continue rising steadily. It is a catch-22, and it becomes more and more evident that solving the problem of air pollution worldwide has become more urgent than ever.

In European cities with efficient public transport, people started using cars more often. Trucks overtook the highways, airlines flew empty planes to keep their slots, and after lockdown measures eased; pollution was on a steady rise worldwide. It is not only alarming because it is precisely the opposite of a drive towards a sustainable, decarbonised economy, but because air pollution-related diseases are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

It is not only alarming because it is precisely the opposite of a drive towards a sustainable, decarbonised economy, but because air pollution-related diseases are one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

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Onoceans

Solarpunk, ecological economist🪐 Rethinking culture, future, equality, science, and the climate emergency. 🌍 Big Picture copy📧 For projects: ono@onoceans.com