Pollution Update

Air and climate matters!

The advent of lockdown in March was followed by a drastic reduction of surface and aviation traffic. Although this was disastrous for the economy it resulted in better local air quality.

The BBC reported levels of NO2 to be reduced by 60% in some cities. Levels of traffic were often reduced to levels last seen in 1955. Air traffic from Heathrow from the whole of 2020 is estimated to be reduced by 64% and to not return to normal until 2022.

Overall, in the months following lockdown traffic levels were reduced by 40% but of course are now rising again. This is interesting. Pollution levels have fallen more than the traffic levels. Some experts have suggested that a drop in traffic leads to a greater drop in congestion which in turn leads to a greater drop in pollution and emissions. And what of CO2? This gas is most responsible for our climate change. Have the lower emissions of CO2 during the 2020 crisis have been enough to start to reverse the 36.8 billion metric tonnes that is in the atmosphere? The answer is no! There is an estimated global decrease of about 2000 million tonnes for this year, taking us back to 2006 levels of emission. This represents a 5.5 % reduction over 2019 levels.

What is needed is a cut of 7.6% (2800 million tonnes), but not just for this year. The decrease is needed for each and every year of this decade to stand a chance of meeting the temperature target of 1.5 degrees global average increase.

John Lees

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