Around the world, pollution and greenhouse gas levels have taken a dramatic dip as travel has come to a halt. Fewer cars on highways, planes in the sky, and people commuting to work has resulted in clear skies in many of the world’s smoggiest cities.
NASA and the European Space Agency’s pollution monitoring satellites show a 30% drop in nitrogen dioxide in China since the outbreak of coronavirus. Lack of boat traffic and cruise ship tourism has left Venice’s canals with clear water. A human-free Yosemite National Park teems with coyotes and a quadrupling bear population (paywall). From Nairobi to Los Angeles, people have taken to social media with images of smog-free skies and crystal-clear city skylines. Some fake viral posts have made the rounds, purporting dolphins in Venice’s canals and drunken elephants passed out in a tea field—but many instances of nature’s comeback have been real.
That doesn’t mean the comeback will last, though. Scientists warn that the effects of the economic shutdown caused by Covid-19 are temporary. The rebound effect once quarantine measures are lifted could result in higher levels of air pollution than before the outbreak, and some scientists say that carbon emissions are not dropping nearly enough to combat the long-term effects of climate change.
For now, during this bleak time, we can appreciate the transient drop in pollution and the return of some wildlife—and maybe even use it as inspiration for future climate action.