The Unintentional Experiment That Could Change Local Climates
April 2020. In my part of the country Covid is a raging unknown killer and we are desperate to find a way to slow its progress. We go into lockdown across our communities.
We stop going into work and school. We mask and walk wide circles around each other when outside. We severely limit travel, including local trips to grocery stores and services. We hunker down.
And our cars sit parked and mostly unused.
While we are huddling in our homes, rediscovering things like bread baking and hanging out with family, something is happening outside, something momentous.
And we largely ignore it, and still ignore it; this great unintentional experiment, unplanned, large scale, and largely unrecorded. Few collect data and it is purely observational.
After all, we are dealing with a deadly pandemic. Science has their hands full.
But outside, especially in urban areas, something eerie is going on. It’s very quiet, the roads are empty in ways we have never seen, like something in an apocalyptic movie.
The cars are gone except for the occasional ghostly person running for groceries. Red lights change and walk signs flash, but there are few to heed them.
Oil prices plummet as demand disappears. Cities normally cloaked in dense and deadly air pollution suddenly start to appear out of the mist. In Mumbai, the skyline is visible for the first time in recent memory.
This is not a writer’s fantasy. It happened. And we never considered its implications later, still caught up in tales of death and loss. It slipped by us, another odd moment in that very odd year, a true year of living dangerously.
Writing this, I catch myself waxing lyrical, but the truth is a great opportunity was lost to science, especially climate science. In a matter of weeks an enforced change in habits made noticeable differences in the entire fossil fuel cycle of usage and pollution.
You might ask yourself why we never circled back to look at this global phenomenon, an experiment that could never be planned and executed on a global…