Few cars, stationary factories, offices and stores closed (heating to zero as a result). The effects of the lockdown on pollution – with the necessary differences between countries and regions – can only be positive. After all, just look out the window to get the pleasant sensation (at least that!) Of breathing a lighter air. On the occasion of Earth Day 2020, on April 22, we tried to translate this immediate and spontaneous feeling into some scientific certainty (in 6 points).
1. The air quality
“Obviously the air quality has improved”, confirms Stefano Laporta, president of Ispra – the Environment Agency “But it is impossible to give an absolute numerical value. In order for the analysis to have some scientific value, it is important to analyze the level of the individual pollutants. Those related to car traffic – such as nitrogen oxides, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and benzene – decreased between 30 and 50 percent, especially in Lombardy and throughout the Po Valley area a among the most polluted areas and today among the most affected by the virus “.
2. The particulates
The particulate matter, on the other hand, did not drop drastically. Because? “Because Pm10 and Pm, 2.5, the most dangerous,” explains Laporta, “also and above all depend on meteorological and climatic factors. If in the first days of the lockdown, our new detection systems – which have also been making use of satellite observation for some time – had recorded a decrease in these pollutants, then it was enough for the wind to bring sands from the Caucasian regions to partially raise their concentration “.
3. There is a relationship between pollution and Covid 19
Precisely because the pandemic broke out where the environmental situation was most compromised, there are those who have put forward the hypothesis of a close relationship between the spread of the virus and the presence of pollutants in the air, especially particulate matter. “It is important to reiterate that there is no scientific evidence on this issue. There could only be an indirect relationship, because where the polluting factors are high, there are those who suffer from greater weakness of the cardio-vascular system. “
4. Greenhouse gases
The estimate of the decrease in greenhouse gases in the first quarter of 2020 is good: a drop of between 5 and 7 percent is expected. “Even if you have to insert the data into a slow decrease in this kind of pollutants that began years ago,” says the president. “From 1990 to 2018, we had already seen a 17 percent reduction in these gases.
5. The Quality of the Waters
Ispra has launched a Marine Water Monitoring Program in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and the police force, which will be completed within a few weeks. “Of course, the feeling is that the quality of the water has also improved considerably,” says Laporta. Without getting to the fake dolphin news in Venice, there are many fish species that have approached the coasts thanks to a more favorable habitat. The goal of the coming months will be to improve the quality of the water, not in terms of bathing – for that we were already well advanced – but in the protection of the marine ecosystem.
6. What will be left to the environment after this pandemic?
The big challenge to face now is to find the right balance between the need to restart the economy and respect for the environment. “The experimentation of smart working and digitization in general that we did in two months could have taken three years,” said Laporta. “We must take all the positive aspects of this emergency in terms of habits and behaviors in order to move towards a social, economic and productive environmental sustainability together. The government is preparing a task force, a sort of control room to introduce new forms of agile work into public bodies that would allow not only the environmental benefits but also the possibility of reconciling family and professional life in a more sustainable way. The objective for the Public Administration, for example, is to quickly reach 30-40 percent of staff in smart working.
Earth Day 2020: sustainable initiatives of brands and academies