Will Coronavirus Lockdowns Bring a Drop in Air-Pollution Related Deaths?

The World Health Organization believes air pollution kills seven million people each year.

But will this year be different? Forbes reports: The global lockdown inspired by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has shuttered factories and reduced travel, slashing lethal pollution including the greenhouse gases that are heating the climate. The lockdown may save more lives from pollution reduction than are threatened by the virus itself, said François Gemenne, director of The Hugo Observatory, which studies the interactions between environmental changes, human migration, and politics.

“Strangely enough, I think the death toll of the coronavirus at the end of the day might be positive, if you consider the deaths from atmospheric pollution,” said Gemenne, citing, for example, the 48,000 people who die annually in France because of atmospheric pollution and the more than one million in China… “More than likely the number of lives that would be spared because of these confinement measures would be higher than the number of lives that would be lost because of the pandemic,” Gemenne said in an appearance on France 24’s The Debate.

The discrepancy in how we react to these divergent threats should give us pause, Gemenne said, to consider why it is that we respond so strongly to one with less lethality and so weakly to one with more.