The Upside of COVID-19 Lockdowns: A Cleaner Planet

Could this lead us to embrace new ways of living and working?

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way millions of people live their day-to-day lives. Despite the myriad dire consequences of the pandemic, government-mandated lockdowns have had some unintended positive consequences: cleaner air, clearer water, and more welcoming natural habitats.

In China, as major cities shuttered factories and reduced transportation, experts found that carbon emissions dropped by about 100 million tons over a two-week time period. NASA satellite images show levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)—a pollutant emitted into the air when fossil fuels are burned—fell across China between January and February. Experts say carbon emissions are down 25% and NO2 is down by about 30% in China.