LEE’S SUMMIT, MO (KCTV) -- Cities like Kansas City with stay at home orders are seeing less people on the roads. That means cheaper gas for those still driving to work, as well as some environmental benefits.
Skies around the world are a little clearer, which you might not notice today in our area since it’s cloudy. However, the canals in Italy are clearer than ever without tourists out and about. With less cars on the road, the nitrogen dioxide levels and pollution levels are lower, too.
Satellite images from NASA show show the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air before and after a peak in coronavirus cases. The difference is clearly visible.
The nitrogen dioxide is an air pollutant that comes from vehicles.
We spoke with Caroline Davies, the chair of Environmental Studies at UMKC, and she said there’s been a change in the U.S. also.
“They are seeing a global reduction in a variety of air pollutants,” Davies said. “If you’re in Beijing, normally they have a brown/red smog in the air. That’s gone. That haze is completely cleared out.”
For all of us out on walks in Kansas City, though, there might not be an immediately visible difference.
“I think, for this, I’m not sure that you will actually see anything different, feel better air when you’re out running or jogging,” she noted.
So, if you take a deep breath right now, it’s probably not going to feel any different to you, but satellite images tell a different story and so does Davies.
She said seeing cleaner air in such a short amount of time is evidence of our need to act.
“If there’s a bright side to this pandemic, it’s I think we can learn a lot about climate change and how to address it,” she said. “Because, until now, there’s been no urgency the way a pandemic has a whole lot of urgency.”
Davies says once we return to life before the coronavirus, our emissions will go right back up.
“The coronavirus -- not to promote a pandemic as a solution -- is having a tremendous impact on air quality,” she said. “However, that’s not a solution.”
Davies is keeping a positive outlook on the future of the planet because she said leaders are proving their ability to act.
“We’re seeing that now with governors and mayors stepping up to address coronavirus in their areas and there is already that framework for sub-national leadership in climate change,” she explained.
Davies said there needs to be a similar amount of urgency with regard to the climate.
Besides staying at home like we all should be doing, you can plant a tree or buy local produce to keep adding to the positive changes we’re seeing in our atmosphere.
Twenty-four different states currently have stay at home orders in place, keeping people off the roads.