With the headlines dominated by coronavirus, not least on this website, Transport Network again brings you a brief selection of good news stories. As a lot of the world enters lockdown, we look for the reasons to be hopeful.
1) Pollution is falling.
Reductions in industrial activity and motor traffic have seen dramatic falls in pollution levels across the world, particularly Nitrogen Dioxide. At the beginning of the month the Guardian reported that NASA satellite images showed a dramatic decline in pollution levels over China. Now the beneficial effect has spread.'
This week, the Guardian quoted Professor Paul Monks of the University of Leicester as asking: ‘Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.'
Prof Monks said that while a reduction in air pollution was unlikely to offset loss of life from the disease: ‘It seems entirely probable that [it] will be beneficial to people in susceptible categories, for example some asthma sufferers. It could reduce the spread of disease. A high level of air pollution exacerbates viral uptake because it inflames and lowers immunity.’
2) Fish (but not dolphins) can be seen in Venice’s canals
Another good news knock-on from the lockdown has been reports that, with Italy suffering terribly from the effects of Coronavirus, the waters in the canals of Venice have become clearer and fish can now be seen.
The main explanation seems to be not that the water is less polluted but that the absence of traffic on the canals means the muddy bottom is less churned up. The fish were there all along.
However, claims of dolphins and swans in the canals have turned out to be fake news and, as National Geographic reports, part of an outbreak of false wildlife stories linked to the virus. A number of websites, such as CNBC and the Guardian have had to remove a misleading tweet from their Venice stories.
On the more positive side, a spokesman for the Venice mayor’s office told CNN: ‘The air, however, is less polluted since there are less vaporetti [canal boats] and boat traffic than usual because of the restricted movement of residents.’
3) Electric cars really are greener than fossil fuel vehicles
The New Scientist reports that electric vehicles are ‘a no-regret choice’, even in places where power grids haven’t gone fully green.
Researchers looked at the projected carbon emissions generated on average over a car’s lifetime, including during its production, while it is being driven and when it is destroyed, for all the conventional and electric cars sold in 59 regions across the world in 2015, representing 95 % of the world’s current road traffic.
They found that electric vehicles already have lower net carbon emissions in 53 of those 59 regions.
4) Inflation is down
Even before the economy came to a near halt, inflation slowed to 1.7% in February, which was down from 1.8% in January, according the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The ONS’ Mike Hardie, who holds the wonderful title of head of inflation, said: ‘There was a slight slowing in the rate of inflation due mainly to falling prices for motor fuels and computer games.’
This was the CPI inflation measure - used by everyone except the rail industry, which uses the RPI measure to calculate increases to regulated fares.
The RPI rate was 2.5% in February. Prepare for the rail industry to paint an above-inflation fare rise next January as ‘below inflation’.
5) Hundreds of thousands offer to help
Returning to the coronavirus crisis, the BBC reports that as of Wednesday morning, some 250,000 people have signed up in a single day to volunteer with the NHS after a recruitment drive to help vulnerable people.
The helpers are needed for delivering food and medicines, driving patients to appointments and phoning people who are isolated.
The scheme is one of a number aimed at relieving pressure on the NHS. About 11,000 former medics have also agreed to return to the health service and more than 24,000 final year student nurses and medics will join them.