A Breath of Fresh Air Amidst COVID-19
Updated: Apr 6
As of Friday, April 3rd, half of the global population is under some sort of shelter-in-place order due to the coronavirus pandemic. This international lockdown is limiting air travel, reducing the number of cars on the road, curtailing public transportation systems, and forcing non-essential businesses to come to a halt. While the negative consequences of COVID-19 on public health and economic wellbeing are being felt acutely by families across the world, an unexpected upside has been a massive reduction in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Why is air pollution a problem?
Air pollution affects people of all ages. According to CDC and Heart.org, air pollution has shown to cause short-term effects such as allergies, respiratory infections, headaches, and long-term effects such as lung cancer, liver damage, heart disease, respiratory disease, and brain damage. In fact, air pollution is a major trigger for asthma and other lung diseases, which can make people more vulnerable to the coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses. Air pollution also contributes to ozone depletion and affects our crops, animals, water, and environment by forming something called acid rain, which harms trees, wildlife, rivers, and soil.
Air Quality Improves Dramatically During COVID-19 Lockdown
According to the EPA’s Air Quality Index, all counties in California’s SF Bay Area have had ‘good’ quality air results (the highest rating possible) every day since March 14. Levels of four major air pollutants have decreased between 16 to 29% in the early weeks of COVID-19. What was once a 2-hour drive from San Francisco to Oakland during rush hour is now an eerily solitary half-hour trip. Overall, the Bay Area’s carbon dioxide emissions lowered by 10% over the same period.
Since Italy went on lockdown on March 9, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in Milan and other parts of northern Italy have fallen by about 40% (The Guardian). Nitrogen dioxide is one of the pollutants from cars and power plants. Below you can see a map showing significant decreases in air pollution near Wuhan, China. These trends will continue as COVID-19 makes its way across countries.
While the global coronavirus lockdown is an incredibly damaging way for our society to achieve pollution reductions, it can serve as a wake-up call for cities and nations across the world to take action on air pollution to improve their citizen’s health. People in highly polluted regions around the world now have a taste of the fresher air that’s possible, as long as corporations and governments take the necessary steps to reduce air pollution in the long-term.
How does this relate to Newday’s Climate Action portfolio?
The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated the ability of our globalized society to dramatically change its behaviors and business practices. While it’s unclear when and how we will come out of this pandemic, we at Newday see an opportunity to build on the private sector’s collaborative response to the coronavirus through responsible investment.
COVID-19 has highlighted which companies are truly committed to creating a positive impact for their customers, employees, and the planet, and those that are still using extractive business models rife with externalities. At Newday, our investment thesis is based on identifying and celebrating impact leaders. Investing in our Climate Action portfolio is one way that you can uphold companies that are leading the way. We hope you join us in continuing to support green companies that are solving the world’s most pressing issues.
We pray for everyone affected by COVID-19 and the related economic fallout and wish you well in the coming weeks.