WASHINGTON, DC—Resources for the Future (RFF) today released a new installment of Resources Radio: “Air Quality Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A View from Two Epicenters, with Valentina Bosetti.”
In this episode, host Kristin Hayes talks with Valentina Bosetti, a Bocconi University professor and a senior scientist at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment, who has closely studied air quality in Northern Italy. Bosetti finds that, while air pollution decreased in the region during the pandemic lockdowns, pollution did not fall nearly as much as expected, largely because lockdown measures hardly impacted agricultural emissions. In addition, Bosetti warns that the public health benefits of improved air quality pale in comparison to the lives lost from COVID-19, and unless governments take action, pollution will surge again once economic activity returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Notable quotes from the podcast:
- Lockdowns do little to stop agricultural pollution: “The big question is: Why didn't we [see] a larger effect [of the lockdowns reducing air pollution]? And the answer we find is agriculture … When the real shutdown came, basically nobody was allowed to go out ... But the activity that was not affected was activity related to agriculture, mostly because, obviously, this is a source of food for the local community. So, they kept doing their business.” (11:31)
- Harm from COVID-19 dwarfs benefits from reduced air pollution: “If you want to have a sense of comparison, how much is 20,000 years of life saved [from reduced air pollution]? You should consider that, due to COVID in the same period, we have lost 190,000 years of life. So, basically, the reduction in NO₂ gave us 10 percent in terms of lives saved than the loss we had due to COVID.” (21:54)
- Local pollution, while solvable, rarely drives people to action: “I care about pollution, mostly because I live in a polluted area. I don't have to change anything in China ... [or] in India to solve the local air pollution in Italy. So, it must be simpler as a problem to be solved. And on top of this, people that live in the area and that could solve the problem also perceive the damage. So why are we not able to solve a simple problem when it's so evident and in front of the eyes of everyone?” (4:28)
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