ALBANY, N.Y. (April 14, 2020) – With stay-at-home orders in the United States, and around much of the world, the COVID-19 crisis is impacting every part of our lives – including the physical environment.

Temporary restraints on air and car travel are leading to cleaner air and fewer carbon emissions, while people working from home are lowering electricity usage in non-essential business buildings.  

Mathias Vuille, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Environment Sciences at the University at Albany, is an expert in greenhouse emissions, including how they are connected to economic growth and periods of recession. He is available to offer insight on COVID-19’s short-term impacts on our planet and spoke with Albany’s local ABC affiliate on the topic last week.

“Historically global greenhouse gas emissions have been closely tied to economic growth and always quickly resumed after periods of economic downturn that lead to a temporary decline in emissions,” he said. “It remains to be seen whether this global pandemic is any different and will result in a sustained change in behavior associated with more work from home and less travel.”

Jim Schwab, a research professor and senior research associate at UAlbany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, has studied atmospheric chemistry, air pollution and air quality for more than 30 years. He is the group leader of a team that makes continuous and ongoing measurements of air pollution at locations across New York, including the Adirondacks and the state’s Southern Tier.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented experiment by drastically changing the magnitude and type of air pollution emissions,” he said. “While similar to the 2008 recession, the drop in activity occurred on a much shorter time scale and will allow for a clearer investigation of how this has (and will) affect air quality and climate change. Our measurements are continuing unabated during this period and will be useful to evaluate these effects.”

Vuille and Schwab are available for phone or virtual interviews.

About UAlbany’s Weather-Climate Enterprise:

With close to 120 faculty, researchers and staff, UAlbany hosts the largest concentration of atmospheric, climate and environmental scientists in New York State, and one of the largest in the nation. Led by its Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences and Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, UAlbany is also home to the NYS Center of Excellence Weather-Climate Business Analytics, the xCITE R&D laboratory, and the New York State Mesonet – the most advanced mesoscale weather observation system in the nation.