Cleaner Air That Takes Us Back to the Future

An unexpected upside of these trying times is that Americans across the country have had the chance to enjoy dramatic improvements in air quality, with urban smog and regional haze at the lowest levels in modern history. Clearer skies can of course be traced to the reduced motor vehicle use and industrial activity associated with the need to shelter in place over the last few months. However, as scientists have recently reported, emissions are increasing as lockdowns are relaxed. So it may be natural to assume that cleaner air can only be achieved through a dramatic decline in economic activity – as if good air quality is a reminder of pre-industrial times that can only be replicated at a crippling economic cost. The truth is much more encouraging.