The Centre For Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) believe that about 11,000 deaths were avoided in April due to a decrease in air pollution.
Not to make light of coronavirus deaths, but there does appear to be a lot of irregularities with some of the numbers we are given. For starters, are normal cases of flu being counted as coronavirus deaths?
There have been reports of vastly inflated Covid-19 death figures. There seem to have been a lot of cases of ‘someone who probably had coronavirus’ being added to the numbers.
Here is one example, as per the Wall Street Journal:
“New York City raised its likely death toll from coronavirus by 3,778 people on Tuesday afternoon, after city officials released new numbers counting people who were presumed to have died of the disease but who hadn’t tested positive for the virus.”
Should the fight against air pollution not be taken more seriously?
The point being, that without accurate data, and without perspective, it’s easier for governments to mislead citizens and to justify action such as lockdowns.
Talking of perspective, consider this statement by the World Health Organization.
“Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year.”
So far, in more or less four months, the coronavirus has killed about 315,000 people; if indeed all recorded deaths were directly from Covid-19.
As shocking as that number is, it’s not even close to the WHO’s tally of annual air pollution deaths.
Yet while the coronavirus has brought the world to a standstill with lockdowns – causing economies to crash and ultimately more poverty and suffering for citizens, not too much has been done over the past few decades to fight air pollution.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change and its resulting carbon taxes are easy for big and powerful nations and industries to side-step. Or in the United States’ case, they’re not even pretending to bother anymore.
So it’s been almost ironic that one of the ‘side effects’ of lockdowns – one which was not even planned – has been the substantial decrease of air pollution levels around the world as industries have shut down and roads have emptied of motor vehicles and planes have vanished from the skies.
According to a CREA statement, just one month’s less pollution across Europe will save thousands of lives.
“The measures to combat the coronavirus have led to an approximately 40% reduction in average level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution and 10% reduction in average level of particulate matter pollution over the past 30 days, resulting in 11,000 avoided deaths from air pollution (95% confidence interval: 7,000 – 21,000).
“This effect comes as power generation from coal has fallen 37% and oil consumption by an estimated 1/3. Coal and oil burning are the main sources of NO2 pollution and key sources of particulate matter pollution across Europe.
“These findings are based on a new CREA assessment of the air quality and health impacts of reduced fossil fuel consumption during the epidemic.”
CREA also threw some other fascinating statistics out – showing how the drop in air pollution has multiple economic and health benefits.
– 1.3 million fewer days of work absence
– 6,000 fewer new cases of asthma in children
– 1,900 avoided emergency room visits due to asthma attacks
– 600 fewer preterm births
It all sounds very positive. The problem though is that heavy industries and transport networks will be operating at full capacity, and beyond, as soon as lockdown restrictions are lifted.
As CREA states, the benefits of the lockdown and the drop in air pollution “should not be seen as a ‘silver lining’, but it does show how normalized the massive death toll from air pollution has become, and points to what can be achieved if we shift to clean energy.”
In a separate report, CREA say that air pollution levels in China – where lockdowns have been lifted, ‘have exceeded concentrations at the same time last year in the past 30 days.’
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