We've likely all heard the cliche, "Every cloud has a silver lining."
Triteness aside, like most hackneyed phrases, it bears some truth.
Sometimes it takes a little effort to put a positive spin on unfortunate events, but if we think about it, we really can identify positive outcomes from anything.
As the nation finds itself in the grips of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it perhaps seems impossible to imagine what conceivable good can come from it, especially since the White House dropped the proverbial ball, leaving us woefully unprepared to handle what in normal circumstances could be calmly assuaged with policy, communication, and funding.
Without minimizing the virus's severity and how seriously we must take it, the quarantines and people working from home or simply not reporting to work are having a marked impact on the environment.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency's pollution-monitoring satellites have recorded over China significant reductions in nitrogen dioxide, a gaseous pollutant resulting from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas, and diesel.
"There is evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus."
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center air quality researcher Fei Liu added:
"This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event."
But Chinese skies are not the only ones getting cleaner.
According to the European Union Earth Observation Programme (@CopernicusEU), nitrogen dioxide levels over northern Italy have declined following the country's lock-down to limit the coronavirus spread.
Claus Zehner, the agency's Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite mission manager, said:
"Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see coincides with the lock-down in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities."
These results indicate how immediate reductions in fossil-fuel emissions will improve the environment at a moment the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported the highest average global temperatures in the 141 years data has been kept.