Across the world millions of people living in cities have been able to breath easier as a result of less air pollution. We know that there is a direct link between air pollution, disease and premature death. (See: Over half a million premature deaths annually in the European Region attributable to household and ambient air pollution)
During this pandemic research has show there is also a link between city air pollution exposure and mortality rates from Covid-19 (See: A national study on long-term exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 mortality in the United States)
In this study the scientists conclude: “A small increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 leads to a large increase in the COVID-19 death rate. Despite inherent limitations of the ecological study design, our results underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.”
Air pollution in a city, we know comes from cars and trucks, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines—anything that burns fossil fuels such as coal, gas, or natural gas.
During the lockdowns, satellite images of many cities in the world show how, when not burning fossil fuels for transportation etc., the nitrogen dioxide concentrations dramatically diminished.
As we open up the economy again we see a return of air pollution. But we now know for sure using current available technology we can do things differently. Why is commuting to offices, if we can work from home necessary? Why are we flying for meetings when we can just as easily meet on Zoom?
We need to do things differently. Some places are seizing the momentum created by the pandemic to do things differently. (For example, Milan announces ambitious scheme to reduce car use after lockdown)
We now know that we can end the daily commute of millions of knowledge workers, taking millions of cars off the road reducing city air pollution dramatically. The good news is many large employers have committed to allowing flexible and remote working going forward.
We are moving in the right direction! How about you, are you planning on driving and flying less?