The Greek economic crisis has been a widely discussed topic and has affected quite a few economies worldwide over the past few years. But looking on the bright side of the situation, the crisis has also led to a huge reduction in air pollution over Greek cities.
A study conducted by Mihalis Vrekoussis of the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia and colleagues presents a series of analysis based on three satellites images and a network of ground-based instruments to detect changes in air pollution over Greece for the period between 2007 and 2011.
The findings published in Geophysical Research Letters show that the most significant decrease of poisonous gases is noted over Athens. The drop has begun in 2002, and has picked up significant speed with a peak drop in 2008. Vrekoussis states that this is due to the decreased use of oil consumption, drop in industrial activity and general decrease in the size of the economy.
The serious health risks in the past were created by excessive use of diesel cars in a combination with plenty of sunshine. The sunlight speeds up chemical reactions, which make car pollutants even more toxic.
Although air pollution has decreased, the concentrations of ground-level ozone are still rising, because nitrogen oxides, which usually suppress it, have declined.
Drops in air pollution are noted in other countries across Europe following the financial crisis in 2008. In the U.S. the fall in concentrations is also noted, particularly in 2011.
According to Ronald Cohen of the University of California, Berkeley, it is up to the governments to either make these drops permanent. Europe and the U.S. have committed to pollution cuts after 2008, and hopefully in the next 10 years, air pollution will be only in history.
In the case of Greece, however, many preventive measures such as low-carbon strategies and clean technologies have been abandoned, according to Vrekoussis. He is concerned that the negative effects will be much stronger than the positive.