Net-zero key to keeping clean air after lockdown, scientists say

With countries across the globe reporting significant reductions in air pollution since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, scientists in California argue that with a strong commitment to reaching net-zero emissions, good air quality would be here to stay.

In a peer-reviewed study published earlier this month (May 4) the journal Nature Sustainability, scientists at UCLA describe a pathway for California to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution by 2050.

Their ‘roadmap’ to net-zero includes a green energy system transformation, better connectivity between sectors and significant investment into new technologies that will curb emissions.

Collaborators from the UCLA Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering contributed state-of-the-art modelling to analyse how ambient air quality would change under a net-zero emissions scenario.

Then, the researchers combined the model with epidemiological data and information to estimate the impact of cleaner air on public health.

Taken together, the study suggests that these actions would prevent about 14,000 premature deaths from air pollution-related illnesses each year in California, all while helping to reduce climate change.

Yifang Zhu, one of the study’s lead authors and a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health said: ‘It doesn’t need to take a global pandemic to create cleaner air and healthier lives

‘Climate action directly benefits people at a local and regional scale by creating cleaner air. The public health benefits are both immediate and long-term, and we can save the economy billions each year.’

In the UK and Europe, the energy mix has shifted significantly as a response to coronavirus and our changing habits.

Coal power fell by over a quarter (25.5%) across the European Union (EU) and UK in the first three months of 2020, compared to 2019.

The impact is even starker between March 10 and April 10, with coal generation collapsing by almost one third (29%) compared to the same period in 2019, making up only 12% of total EU and UK generation. By contrast, renewables delivered almost half (46%) of generation – an increase of 8% compared to 2019.

In total, demand for electricity across the continent is down by one-tenth (10%) due to measures taken to combat Covid-19, the biggest drop in demand since the Second World War.

Photo Credit – Pixabay


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