Shutdowns show how clean our air already is
by Mike Nasi | June 05, 2020
The terrible situation caused by the coronavirus shutdowns across the world has led to an interesting experiment in air quality. What happens to the environment here and abroad when worldwide transportation and industrial production drop off significantly? Reading the news, the improvements seem to be significant. News reports with headlines such as “Coronavirus Got Rid of Smog” abound, and CNN posted some eye-popping before and after photos of cities such as New Delhi.
But photos can be deceiving. That CNN article compared a photo of New Delhi in March 2020 to one from November 2019, but for the one U.S. city it profiled, Los Angeles, it had to go all the way back to 1998 to find an appropriately smoggy photo. A closer look at the data shows how transportation and industrial production reductions don’t move the needle nearly as much in the already-safe American environment as they do in other countries with much more polluted air.