Also possible without needing a pandemic

NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China. There is evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus.

At the end of 2019, medical professionals in Wuhan, China, were treating dozens of pneumonia cases that had an unknown source. Days later, researchers confirmed the illnesses were caused by a new coronavirus (COVID-19). By January 23, 2020, Chinese authorities had shut down transportation going into and out of Wuhan, as well as local businesses, in order to reduce the spread of the disease. It was the first of several quarantines set up in the country and around the world.

The maps on this page show concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities. The maps above show NO2 values across China from January 1-20, 2020 (before the quarantine) and February 10-25 (during the quarantine). The data were collected by the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) on ESA’s Sentinel-5 satellite. A related sensor, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite, has been making similar measurements.

“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Liu recalls seeing a drop in NO2 over several countries during the economic recession that began in 2008, but the decrease was gradual. Scientists also observed a significant reduction around Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, but the effect was mostly localized around that city, and pollution levels rose again once the Olympics ended.

It doesn’t take a disaster or even an emergency – beyond the one we have already created with the usual emissions levels. Reductions are possible. Disasters and loss are not mandatory, though we do make them inevitable to some extent by doing nothing. Still, these dramatic images should be instructional about what’s possible. It would be interesting to know the near-term implications of these reductions. You know, science.

Expense of the Environment

It’s an interesting concept, especially as we’ve all but stopped letting the costs of war preclude us from war-making, but how much should protecting the environment cost us? In money and competitiveness, the issue is contentious, rife with conflicts, false promises and disinformation. But, let no one tell you that Republican officeholders at every level stand for anything but rolling back regulations and agencies charged with protecting the environment. While there was hardly ever any doubt about this, now there is not even a pose.

The budget approved by the legislature, led by Republicans for the first time in a century, eliminates the program as part of roughly $23 million in environmental program cuts that would chop more than 150 positions. All told, the department’s budget would be cut by 12 percent, more than double the cuts proposed by Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat.

The legislative budget also would shift some operations to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is led by a Republican commissioner, a move some fear would change the focus from environmental protection to business enhancement.

That’s in North Carolina, but it is everywhere the same. Democrats get elected promising to enact new regulations and fund alternatives; Republicans get elected promising to rein in regulations and lavish spending on boondoggles. Eye; beholder. I especially like this:

“I don’t want to destroy anything,” said state Sen. Don East, a Surry County Republican and an environmental budget writer. “I just don’t think these very stringent environmental rules that we are living under are going to do what the environmentalists say they do.”

How could they? I believe he doesn’t want to do any harm to anything, including taking any power away from anybody to release anything anywhere. You know, the little guy. Sorry, dude. That’s not a choice anymore. Now you have to actually make choices. Oh: you are.