Decreased levels of travel and energy generation have led to reduced air pollution emissions in the Chesapeake Bay region.
As a large section of the workforce is working remotely and in many areas only essential travel is permitted, nitrogen oxide emissions have decreased throughout the country. Despite a downward trend over the past few years in air pollution, scientists are still surprised to see such sharp declines during the COVID-19 crisis.
From coverage in the Bay Journal:
“We’ve seen this immense decrease in passenger traffic, anywhere from 40–50% depending on where you are in the state,” said Jeremy Hoffman, chief scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia. It’s important to note that weather plays a huge role in air quality, he added, but “that huge drop in traffic coinciding with this huge drop in [nitrogen dioxide] in the air is, to me, a pretty convincing relationship.”
In addition to emission reductions from decreased travel, changes in emissions from energy production may also be impacting air pollution levels. With much of the workforce staying in their homes, utilities can point to a shift in energy demand from workplace to residential, and in some cases an overall decrease in demand.
Although the news is welcome, experts warn that the decrease in air pollution is due to several factors and is most likely temporary. They believe that when the pandemic is over air pollution levels will return to levels seen before the COVID-19 crisis disrupted everyday life.