Due to the stalled economy, especially the reduction in air and car traffic, greenhouse gas emissions in the US are projected to fall 9.2% in 2020, the lowest level in three decades, according to a study by BloombergNEF. Previous studies have shown that there are fewer particles present both at home and abroad.
That remarkable 9.2% decrease is partially offset by the wildly runaway forest fires in the west this year, which pumped carbon dioxide into the air. The result is that gas emissions will only be 6.4% lower this year, according to the Washington Post.
BloombergNEF’s study, which looks at clean energy, also said that even without the pandemic, the country would have seen a small 1% decline from 2019.
As a result of the net decline, according to the Post, the US could still achieve the targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015. President-elect Joe Biden has announced that the agreement will be reintroduced. The US officially withdrew from the agreement in early November.
“The amount of pain we had to go through for a relatively modest decline shows that there needs to be smarter politics and thinking about emissions,” Ethan Zindler, head of Americas at BloombergNEF, told the Post. “The focus does not have to be on how the demand can be reduced, but on how the supply can be made more environmentally friendly.”
Climate change and Covid-19
According to scientists, man-made greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible for global climate change. A major source is carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heating.
The danger is that greenhouse gases prevent the sun’s heat from leaving the earth’s atmosphere. They also contribute to respiratory and infectious diseases from smog and air pollution, according to Dr. Aaron Bernstein, director of the Center for Climate, Health, and Global Environment at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
“Climate change has already made the conditions for some infectious diseases, including Lyme disease, more favorable to spread [and] Water-borne diseases … To limit the risk of infectious diseases, we should do everything we can to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, “said Dr. Bernstein in a university publication.
“We also have to take climate protection measures to prevent the next pandemic. For example, preventing deforestation – a root cause of climate change – can help curb biodiversity loss and slow animal migration, which can increase the risk of infectious diseases spreading. … Reducing air pollution by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas also helps keep our lungs healthy, which can protect us from respiratory infections like coronavirus, “he said.
Air pollution and Covid-19
With air pollution, the long-term and short-term effects have to be managed. Long term are the effects of greenhouse gases and short term are emissions.
Air pollution and greenhouse gases usually come from the same sources as car exhausts and emissions from factories and power plants.
Air pollution is the build-up of particles (PM2.5) in the air that increases the risk of respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD. Because PM2.5 is so small – thinner than a human hair – it can reach deep into the lungs and sometimes get into the bloodstream.
A Harvard University study recently published in ScienceAdvances found that Covid-19 patients exposed to long-term air pollution have an 11% higher risk of death. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/45/eabd4049
The researchers analyzed long-term PM2.5 exposure in counties in the United States, as well as the Covid-19 death rate in those areas. The number of Covid-19 deaths was 116,747 based on data from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center as of June 2020. The results showed a higher risk of death related to PM2.5 exposure in each county studied.
Another study, published by the European Society of Cardiology in October, examined the link between air pollution and the risk of Covid-19 death on a global scale. https://academic.oup.com/view-large/210529298
These researchers found that those who were exposed to fine particulate matter pollution from the surrounding area for extended periods of time accounted for around 15% of deaths from Covid-19 worldwide. The percentages per region were: 19% in Europe, 7% in Africa, 8% in West Asia, 15% in South Asia, 27% in East Asia, 17% in North America, 9% in South America, and 3% in Oceania.
Face masks work
Face covers seem like the best way to fight Covid-19 and air pollutants.
N95 and N99 respirators are the gold standards for blocking more than 95% of PM2.5 pollutants.
The next choice is likely to be surgical masks. These can block PM2.5 and other fine particles suspended in the air, but their efficiency depends on the quality of the mask material and the number of layers. The more layers, the more particles the mask can filter.
Finally, there are the cloth masks that you have available everywhere. Cloth masks are the least efficient, but health experts recommend that you wear them outdoors too as they still act as a physical barrier between you and particles in the air.
According to one article, the fit of the mask is extremely important. A tiny gap in the fit can increase exposure to particulates and other harmful particles in the air. Another factor is your breathing rate; The faster you breathe, the more particles are drawn into the mask filter. A person sitting on a couch can breathe easily through a surgical mask. But someone who goes outside for a few minutes has a higher breathing rate, while someone who jogs with a mask may have a faster breathing pattern.
This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.