One of the very few positives of Covid-19: Reduction in air pollution

One of the very few positives of Covid-19 is that we all get a glimpse at what a future without burning dinosaur juice to transport ourselves around may look like, check this photo out and then imagine every UK town/city and a similar scene.

At the moment the UK is seeing around a 60% reduction in air pollution [1]

With ~40,000 premature deaths that are directly linked to air pollution in the UK each year [2] this reduction in people commuting to work, not flying across the world for meetings or driving across town to go shopping would reduce the unnecessary deaths quite significantly (if it continued), however, sadly it will not give much if any short term advantage to those people already destined to die early from air pollution, in fact one study is already linking a disproportionate number of the Covid-19 deaths to those who are suffering illnesses linked with air pollution [3].

So to the positives on this fine #EarthDay, we know the answers to solve the air pollution issues, but the difficulty is ensuring everyone fights for a future where our kids and grandchildren look back and see that we’ve done more than just waiting for them to clean up our crap, here are some of the solutions:

1) Move energy generation and storage to renewable sources. Wind and solar power is cheap (wind power is the cheapest form of electricity in fact) [4] – ensure all new homes are forced to put in solar power and heat pumps. Get households to think before buying home electricity and gas, there are over 14 renewable energy only tariffs out there!


2) Cut down travel. Walk and cycle wherever possible and if required use a 100% electric vehicle. Put pressure on Government, local businesses etc to provide adequate charging facilities where home chargers are not feasible. Ensure all new homes and car parks have car chargers.


3) Reduce intake of meat as households – yes it’s a touchy subject for some but it’s pretty insane when you look at the numbers, if you don’t want to give up try half weeks off meat and reduce your beef intake as much as possible (something I’ve been doing now for ~2 years).


4) Cut our use of unnecessary animal products (e.g. I’m not vegetarian or vegan but we moved from cows milk to Oatly).


5) Learn and teach others, the UK needs to go through a radical change to ween itself off fossil fuels but it’s happening already at a rapid pace, yesterday The National Grid at least in England was primarily powered by solar, wind and nuclear energy!


6) Clean air zones around schools, town/city centres. Further discouragement of petrol and diesel cars.


7) A push to cleaner/greener/faster/nicer/more affordable mass transport solutions


8) Introduce more green spaces into otherwise concrete jungles. Vertical gardens and public green spaces should be prioritised.


9) Government to mandate that household delivery vans (e.g. Royal Mail/supermarket/Amazon etc) must be hybrids or full EV by no later than 2030.

To summarise, I’ve always found it odd that a pandemic scares us all massively but something like air pollution that has been killing people right in front of our noses is often ignored. Thankfully there is clear light at the end of the dirty tunnel. I hope everyone reading this is well, thanks for reading.

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Sources:

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-52202974

[2] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(17)30029-3/fulltext

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/21/preliminary-study-links-air-pollution-to-coronavirus-deaths-in-england

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/wind-power-now-the-cheapest-source-of-electricity-but-the-government-continues-to-resist-onshore-a6685326.html

[5] Image source: https://twitter.com/comadad/status/1251908585820479490?s=21