Coronavirus Lockdown Linked to Falling Air Pollution Levels in Italy
Satellite data shared in early March showed a steep decline in nitrogen dioxide levels over China between January and February as the epidemic's epicenter of Wuhan went into lockdown. Now, images shared by the European Space Agency (ESA) suggest that a similar thing happened in Italy, which has reported the second highest number of cases after China.
"The decline in nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Po Valley in northern Italy is particularly evident," ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager Claus Zehner said. "Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see, coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activity."
The ESA published an animation Friday based on data from its Copernicus Sentinel-5p satellite that shows fluctuations in nitrogen dioxide pollution over Europe between Jan. 1 and March 11. The decline in emissions over Italy coincided with lockdown measures announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte March 9 that prohibited public gatherings and non-essential travel. This followed a decision the day before to lockdown the country's North, The New York Times reported. The North has been the region hardest hit by the virus and where the pollution decline has been most evident.
Nitrogen dioxide emissions are largely driven by cars, power plants and industry. While they are not a major contributor to the climate crisis, they do tend to correlate with greenhouse gas emissions, The Washington Post explained. Because Italy has made significant strides in reducing its emissions and powers itself mostly with natural gas and renewable energy, experts think the decline is down to a decrease in driving.
"I guess this is mostly diesel cars out of the road," Georgia Tech University climate economics expert Emanuele Massetti told The Washington Post.
The lockdown has also decreased water pollution. The canal in Venice, now free of gondolas and cruise ships, is crystal clear, Global News reported.
I canali di Venezia senza traffico di barche!! Il risultato? Acqua limpidissima Ph. Venice pictures https://t.co/KGsKWNd56u— Albert Folaz (@Albert Folaz)1583964424.0
The decline in tourism has brought "back the lagoon waters of ancient times, those of the post-war period, when it was even still possible to bathe in the waters of the canals," local newspaper La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre wrote.
But COVID-19 has taken a significant human toll on Italy. The country reported 368 new deaths from the virus on Sunday, Al Jazeera reported. More than 2,100 people have died in total, and the country had 27,980 cases as of Monday, The Hill reported.
"This is not the way to reduce emissions!" University of Tuscia professor Riccardo Valentini told The Washington Post.
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- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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