Pandemic Lockdowns Clear Air Around Globe



People have reported seeing record numbers of stars after months of coronavirus lockdowns.

The pandemic, along with the forced closures, has given scientists a window into how changing behaviors can drastically change pollution even in a short amount of time.

“Residents of cities were reporting that the decrease in pollution was increasing their health (decreasing respiratory and allergic responses to pollution) and some people were able to see the stars for the first time in their lives, and also see (and hear) birds in the city for the first time,” explained science teacher Mr. Bradford.

According to an article on Green Biz (, a media outlet that focuses on business, technology, and sustainability across industries, carbon dioxide will decrease as a result of the lockdown rules set by some countries. Some of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide are trucks, automobiles, and airplanes. While many trucks are still used, automobile and air traffic usage has decreased.

These images show the reduction in air pollution over India in 2020 attributed to the reduced activity because of coronavirus lockdowns. (NASA)

The article, entitled “How coronavirus will affect four key environmental issues,” cites research showing that air pollution from nitrogen oxide, another polluter, has decreased a lot in China. It also reported that airborne particles in Northern India are at a 20-year low due to decreased factory activity.

“I hope that some of the people who live in cities and saw the huge improvements in air quality will decide that it is worth making changes to increase their quality of life by decreasing future causes of pollution,” said Mr. Bradford

According to the Green Biz website, since about 60 to 70 percent of water use is by the agricultural industry, it is expected that the consumption of water will decrease if the consumption of our natural resources decreases. As many industries have reduced activities, the water consumption of the industry sector, which is about 20 to 30 percent of the total, also should decrease.

According to NASA, the smallest portion of water consumption is by human activity. It is likely that this also will decrease, as homebound people tend to be more efficient with water when it is consumed at home. Showers at home are usually shorter than those at hotels or health clubs.

Overall, we should see a decrease in water consumption worldwide. In terms of water quality, this is also improving, as exemplified by the clearness of the canals in Venice, Italy, where there is little boat traffic to stir up the bottom. It is the clearest it has been in 60 years. Even dolphins are swimming there.

With all of the data coming in on these positive impacts, Bradford hopes that cities, countries, and industries will see how they can make a difference, but he isn’t holding his breath.

“I am sometimes discouraged by what lessons humans are able to learn from our experiences,” Bradford said. “How we have responded to COVID shows very little understanding or trust in the science, which has given us a great deal of information about what works and what does not work as we fight the epidemic – and yet we (the U.S. in particular) have seen hundreds of thousands of deaths, and are currently seeing the worst increases in cases, despite knowing what might be necessary to decrease the epidemic.”

Whether the U.S. or anyone else will use the lessons of COVID-19 to continue improving the environment remains to be seen.