BEIRUT: In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, people around the world bunkered down at home. Once busy streets turned empty and silent in the midst of a temporary shutdown of industrial activities.
A drop in air travel. Falling demand for oil. These disruptions had one startling result: a decline in greenhouse gas emissions.
NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites recently released images showing a decline in air pollution. The study measured the air’s concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a gas produced from combustion, primarily from cars, trucks, buses, power plants, and industrial sources.
During the Chinese New Year holiday period, which matched the coronavirus outbreak in China, lower levels of NO2 are recorded as many businesses and factories close down in celebration of the Lunar New Year. However, between January and February 2020, NO2 levels were 10 to 30% lower than average, experts said.
According to NASA scientists, the reduction in NO2 pollution first appeared near Wuhan, then spread across the country before to eventually reaching Italy and some other countries as millions of people have been quarantined.
As for Lebanon, satellites specialized in monitoring air pollution, and specifically NO2, displayed a decrease in gas emissions for an average of 30 days, from February 16 until March 17. “We started noticing decreases in nitrogen dioxide levels and a decrease in its geographical area due to the countrywide closure and the limitation of movement, a good sign so far,” said George Mitri, Director of land and natural resources program at the Institute of the Environment at Balamand University.
“The outbreak forced people to implement measures that should have been taken a long time ago; we should have declared an environmental state of emergency to at least redeem a climate balance,” Paul Abi Rached, President of Lebanon's Ecomovement, told Annahar.
Abi Rached argued that the time needed to overcome this crisis will ”remind people globally, that their lifestyle and their consumption is wrong.” "They will learn a lesson", he said.
Lebanon had declared on Sunday a state of "public health emergency" to deal with the spread of the virus, as Lebanon has only a total of 12,555 beds, including 2,026 beds in Intensive Care Units (ICUs). Schools have already shut down across the country, as well as movie theaters, gyms, and restaurants. As for Lebanon's airport, it will be shut down from March 18 until March 29.
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