Earlier this month, NASA published striking satellite images of the massive reduction in air pollution over China, a phenomenon resulting from the country's economic slow-down following its aggressive response to Covid-19. "Given the huge amount of evidence that breathing dirty air contributes heavily to premature mortality, a natural if admittedly strange question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from Covid-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself," the researchers wrote. Even with conservative calculations, their answer was yes. "Perhaps Covid-19, if we survive it, will help us find less polluting ways to do our jobs. More broadly, the fact that disruption of this magnitude could actually lead to some large (partial) benefits suggests that our normal way of doing things might need disrupting."

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