COVID-19 Has Given Hope For the Future Through Decreased Air Pollution Levels: Sonali Sharma

Around 8 million people die every year due to problems associated with air pollution,

according to the World Health Organization. Air pollution is one of the leading factors in global warming as gasses in the environment continue to contribute to rising temperatures every year.

Recent events have shifted the world’s focus from global warming to other issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of this pandemic, there has been some good concerning global warming and climate change.

Global warming, as defined by NASA, is the” long-term heating of Earth’s climate

system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human

activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.” The primary way humans have contributed is by increasing greenhouse gas levels. These increasing levels of air pollution have not only affected the planet, but humans as well in two ways. The World Health Organization states that around 4.2 million deaths per year are due to exposure to ambient outdoor air pollution, while 3.8 million die due to exposure to household air pollution. Both types of air pollution are manmade and contribute to rising greenhouse levels. Many countries contribute to air pollution, for example, China. However, China’s air pollution rates were down by 25% during the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries during this pandemic have shown signs of more lucid air as well, with PM2.5 concentration levels down. PM2.5 refers to particle matters with a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometers. These particles can be very harmful to humans, which is why the World Health Organization states that above 25 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 is unsafe. This being said, China’s PM2.5 levels during their 10-week lockdown in Wuhan decreased in February and March from about 10-20 micrograms when compared to the previous year. These levels are considered unsafe, but the drastic difference of PM2.5 levels in a matter of weeks shows hope for better and cleaner air quality. Around the world, many other cities were reported to have cleaner air during this global pandemic, including Los Angeles whose PM2.5 concentration levels were down by 31% compared to the previous year, and 51% when compared to the last 4. In Seoul, there was a 54% drop in concentration levels when compared from February 26 to March 18 in 2019. The most significant difference in PM2.5 concentration levels seen during this pandemic was in India when their population of about 1.3 billion people was in lockdown. With a usual concentration level deemed to be well over unsafe, a 60% reduction was found in the capital of New Delhi as well as reports of cleaner air in other cities like Mumbai. This data was compared between March 23-April 13 of 2019 and 2020.

This pandemic has shown that there is still hope for our world. We can get our air

pollution levels down, in turn decreasing the effects of global warming. If countries took the

same initiative as used when containing this global pandemic, we could fix our climate change crisis one step at a time. Air pollution is the first step to fixing the more significant problem that we have created. If we want to continue to live on this planet, we need change. We need to make the switch from carbon emissions to green energy, which decreases greenhouse gas emissions. We need to harvest the natural power given to us– the sun, the wind, the earth. Without change, we will not survive. Change is only possible with your help, and we can get one step closer to a healthier future for Earth, our home.

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