Air Pollution Before and After COVID-19: What to Expect

Air Pollution Before and After COVID-19: What to Expect

As disruptive as COVID-19 was, it came with an unprecedented perk: a temporary drop in pollutant emissions. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the world saw a 40% decline in air travel, accounting for 344 tonnes of carbon emission. Besides, many countries remained under strict lockdowns for weeks, leading to a 30-60% decrease in PM and NO2 levels [1]. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

Now, let’s flip the coin. Do you ever find yourself imagining how you will travel relentlessly to make up for the times you had to spend indoors? You are not alone; many people struggle with a severe FOMO because of the pandemic. It turns out there is a term for the irresistible wanderlust: revenge travelling. 

Travelling after the pandemic is not an issue, but a massive boom in travel and transport can be. This brings us to our next phrase: revenge pollution. Many experts fear that post-pandemic revenge travel will accelerate pollutant emissions from planes and cars, as more people will be willing to travel after months of staying at home.


Has This Happened Before?

When asked about the repercussions of revenge travel, experts always refer to one example from the past: the 2008 economic recession.

The financial difficulties prevented many people from travelling during the 2008 economic crisis. That is why there was a 1.3% drop in global emissions between 2008 and the beginning of 2010. Once the clouds dissipated, many people urged to make up for the time they weren’t able to travel. As a result, 2010 saw a 6% increase in vehicle emissions [2].


Predictions For Post-Pandemic Travel

If we take a detailed look at surveys and statistics, it is quite clear that the travel industry is bound to resurrect. For example, the US-based hotel marketing agency Fuel Travel conducted a survey on 10,500 participants, where they found that 60% of the participants intended to rebook their cancelled booking and continue travelling.

That said, the return of air travel will be very gradual because governments will impose new regulations for foreigners, including a vaccination certificate or compulsory quarantine. So, it is safe to say that air travel - and the resulting emissions- are somehow going to be regulated.

The same regulations don’t apply to domestic travel, so it is definitely a more feasible option for tourists. Indeed, a survey from The Harris Poll revealed that 60% of the participants feel more comfortable driving either in their own car or a rented one. So, there is a clear shift into domestic car travel for more flexibility and supporting local businesses, which means long-distance driving will become more popular.

Revenge travel does not only involve leisure travelling; business travel, including going back to the office, is also expected to rise again. A survey by the real estate agency JLL supports this theory. When asked about their plans to return to the office in the future, 75% of the participants said yes.

What Do These Results Imply in Terms of Air Pollution?

The main idea from all of these survey results is that the declines in vehicle emissions and the subsequent air pollution are only temporary. The slightly improved air quality is only because we suspended the activities that caused air pollution, not because the governments improved their policies to implement eco-friendly measures. As life begins to go back to normal, we will start going out and driving more and more.

So, it is not a good idea to overlook the threat of air pollution just because that threat is temporarily asleep

One way to prepare for the oncoming boom of revenge pollution is to guard yourself. You can do this with a wearable air filter that will keep pollutants like PM, NO2, and SO2 abundant in exhaust fumes. Nosy X’s triple-layered filter mechanism is perfect for this task, as it can capture particles and gases of 0.3 micrometers with at least 99.7% efficiency.

Learn how Nosy X captures pollutants and germs here.

Learn how revenge pollution might damage your body in the long run here.

[1] Venter, Zander S., et al. "COVID-19 lockdowns cause global air pollution declines." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117.32 (2020): 18984-18990.

[2] Tong, Daniel, et al. "Impact of the 2008 Global Recession on air quality over the United States: Implications for surface ozone levels from changes in NOx emissions." Geophysical Research Letters 43.17 (2016): 9280-9288.


  • Air Pollution: How to Create an ‘Air Quality’ Garden (by DIY Garden)

  • Companies That Create Wonders from CO2 with Microorganisms

  • Does Air Pollution Trigger Hay Fever?

See More