As the world scrambles to control the spread of COVID-19, countries around the globe (including the Philippines) have started to impose quarantines and lockdowns. Not only that, but schools, businesses, and other forms of trade have also have suspended operation. For now, only essential businesses and services like supermarkets, 24/7 convenience stores, hospitals, clinics, and other services remain open.
But despite the restricted movement of the public during lockdown/quarantine, there could be a positive effect in the long run. With far fewer vehicles plying the road, as well as most businesses and factories operating in a limited capacity or closed outright, there is expected to be a reduction of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases not just in the Philippines, but in other countries as well.
Take China for example. Ever since they imposed a lockdown and restricted movement of the population, air pollution has been cut by roughly a quarter last month. Meanwhile, levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant primarily caused by burning fossil fuels, were down by as much as 30%. This is due to the fact that coal-powered power plants and industrial factories have reduced capacity due to the imposed lockdown. Back in 2017, China produced about 9.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Residents living in Shanghai have noted that this is the first time they have seen clear-blue skies over the city's skyline. While some may see the drop in emissions small, do remember that China is the leading producer of carbon emissions in the globe. Thanks to the sharp decline, experts are estimating that the cleaner air will also help in lessening pollution-related diseases, which could translate to lesser early fatalities in the future.
Italy, on the other hand, has also seen a significant drop in carbon emissions and air pollutants. Based on the European Space Agency's initial data, the reduced traffic and industrial activities have resulted in the lesser carbon emissions in the country. It also included the decline of nitrogen dioxide during the first two months of 2020, just when the disease was starting to spread in the country.
As for the Philippines, there is no initial data as to how much carbon emissions have been cut in Metro Manila, or in Luzon for that matter. There is also no 2019 data available yet but experts say that carbon emissions in the country have been on the rise since 2012. Back in 2018, the country produced 1.39 metric tons of C02 emissions per capita.
Add to that the average volume of traffic along EDSA at around 400,000 vehicles per day, and you have yourself a harmful mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other pollutants affecting Metro Manila and nearby cities/provinces. But due to the enhanced community quarantine, it could mean better air quality in the National Capital Region and neighboring regions in the coming weeks.
Let's just hope that the ECQ will curb the spread of the contagious COVID-19 and that our health workers on the front line be able to combat the disease as well. As always; stay safe, stay indoors, and always wash your hands.