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 May 20, 2020
Air pollution returns to pre-lockdown levels in China after falling 40 percent

 Air pollution in China dropped significantly during the worst of the country's coronavirus outbreak, falling far below normal levels before rising again as China's workers returned to their jobs.

A study from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air first reported by Bloomberg shows air pollution dipping to levels far below last year's springtime measurements during March and April, when many Chinese remained at home due to lockdown orders.

But the pollution returned in May, as China's lockdown orders ended and millions returned to work according to the study.

"Controlling for meteorological conditions, national average PM2.5, SO2 and ozone concentrations in the past 30 days were above their pre-crisis levels, while NO2 concentrations were at the same levels as before the crisis, showing that the rebound cannot be accounted for by weather factors," researchers said of the rebound in pollutant levels.

"Rebounding air pollutant levels are a demonstration of the importance of prioritizing green economy and clean energy in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. All eyes are on China, as the first major economy to return to work after a lockdown," the study's abstract continued.

Researchers pointed specifically to a spike in China's usage of private transportation over public options such as buses and subways, a result of the coronavirus pandemic, as one reason why the spike in May was so significant.

"Overall mobility (passenger transport volume) is still below last year's levels but there has been a shift from public transport to private cars and return of congestion in urban areas
due to worries about infection risk, which is not helping," the study found.

Emissions of carbon dioxide from human activity around the world has noticeably dropped amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has cut back significantly on commercial air travel and other forms of transportation.

"The damage from CO2 just accumulates, so every ton we don't release is not inflicted on the environment, but if everything goes back to business as usual when this ends, it won't have much of an impact," David Archer, a professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, said in March.