Video: air pollution returns to China as coronavirus lockdown is eased

Startling satellite images released by the European Environmental Bureau (EEA) show how air pollution has quickly returned to China as they ease their coronavirus lockdown and people return to work.

Timelapse videos reveal how levels of pollution dropped dramatically during January and February but as tough lockdown restrictions have been eased, levels have almost returned back to pre-coronavirus levels in major cities such as Beijing, Hong Kong, and Wuhan, where the pandemic began.

The images come from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Sentinel 5P satellite, which continuously monitors nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels on earth.

EEB air policy officer Margherita Tolotto said: ‘During this pandemic, what happens in China has often been a window into what happens elsewhere some time later. Breathing toxic air compromises our health and makes us more vulnerable to health threats.

‘Our governments and the European Commission must prevent harmful air pollution from returning and develop exit strategies which avoid taking us back to a dirty future.’

The images strengthen an argument made last month by Dr Gabriel da Silva, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne, wrote that as economies eventually recover, there is likely to be an ’emissions surge’ which will leave the environment worse off. 

Thanks to James Poetzcher, the ESA and the EEB for providing the following timelapse videos from Beijing, Hong Kong, China and Wuhan.

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