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COVID-19 may be helping the environment, benefits might only be short term

Restricted travel and stay at home orders are meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. A side effect of that may be a healthier environment outdoors.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — With the coronavirus keeping many indoors either from school or work, this means there is less human and vehicular traffic happening around the world. 

Restricted travel and stay at home orders are meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. A side effect of that may be a healthier environment outdoors.

“If there is a cut in people commuting to the workplace and traveling to friends and families, that’s, of course, generating positive outcomes to the air quality," said TAMU Department of Atmospheric Sciences professor Yang Yang Xu.

Demonstrated by NASA satellite, this decrease of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be seen globally.

“They have looked at the Chinese cities over the last two months, and compared that with all previous months, the drop is significant and cannot be explained by meteorology or spring break so I think the same thing will be happening again in the US and in Europe, and in other global cities as well," said Xu.

Similar trends of lower CO2 levels were sighted during the 2008 financial crisis and lasted for a year or two.

But these benefits may only be for the short run.

“With the reduction of productivity, people working from home will entirely stop the innovation and technical changes we need very much for providing future climate changing solutions such as transitioning into renewable energy or other innovative ways to combat climate change," said Xu.

In the short term, we may see rather immediate benefits to the air quality, but in the long-run, researchers are unable to further the progress of working on innovative tools and renewable energy sources to help the earth. 

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