As the world’s various economies reel from the impact of the COVID-19-instigated lockdowns, another, more positive effect has emerged. The air quality is noticeably better across many cities globally, as numerous roads and factories were forced to shut down. This is readily verifiable via NASA’s Global Modelling and Data Assimilation team’s visualization data available for free online.
You can also utilize the dealchecker website to view an interactive map of pollution indices in various locations. As human beings, we tend to gravitate towards good, clean living, and this article covers some of the least polluted cities across the world during this tumultuous period.
Pollution decline in a locked-down world
According to the WHO, roughly 2 million people succumb to ailments caused by air pollution each year. Almost everyone living in urban areas is frequently and increasingly exposed to air pollution. In countries with low GDP, the air quality situation is usually much worse, with 98% of such cities failing to meet WHO air quality standards. With vast countries such as India and China locking down their populations, as much as 7% of the entire world’s population is confined most of the time indoors.
This has resulted in a corresponding decline in air pollution levels; animals and birds are roaming freely around streets, fields, and national parks. In some cities, you can now clearly see the skylines above and snow-peaked mountains off in the distance, a feat that was nearly impossible in the past. An unintended consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is a decline in industrial activities, transport operations, and a general reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions across the globe, including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
Some of the least polluted cities in the world
According to recent studies by the American Lung Association, Honolulu in Hawaii is consistently ranked among the cities with the cleanest air. Some scientists attribute this to the Hawaii tradewinds, which are breezes that are operational all year round and help clean the air by carrying particulates in the air out to sea. Incidentally, Hawaii also features locations with the fewest number of heart attacks per year across the globe. A coincidence? Maybe not.
In the world’s list of least polluted cities, Adelaide in Australia features prominently. Mercer Global Financial also highlighted the city as being among the cleanest in the world. In addition to this, Adelaide is regularly featured in dozens of lists of the best cities. Australians have a lot to teach us about clean living and the minimization of carbon footprints.
When it comes to efficiency (including financial) and clean living, the Swiss are hard to miss. Zurich in Switzerland is infamous for its strict waste management policies, and its populace prefers riding bicycles, buses, and trains to driving. Zurich further outshines its competitors by providing residents with apps that help them keep an eye on their waste production and tips on recycling and clean environments.
While Finland is renowned for its superb education system, its capital city Helsinki also features in the list of the world’s least polluted cities. In Helsinki, most of the population prefers to ride bikes to and from work, with a few opting for public transportation. The city has built almost 2500 miles of bicycle lanes to serve its enlightened populace. The result? 80.95 on the air quality scale, which is not bad considering the country’s healthy way of life.
Despite being the butt of numerous jokes about freezing wastelands, Iceland has clean air. The capital, Reykjavik, offers crisp Arctic air, unmatched scenic beauty, and ice-white surroundings. Reykjavik regularly features in Architectural Digest’s list of the cleanest cities in the world. Icelandic people have a dedication to alternative energy sources, revealing pristine living citations and natural resources. Up to 90% of the country’s electricity and heating comes from geothermal sources, leading to air quality levels of about 87.50.
Located in Canada, Calgary is a popular skiing destination for enthusiasts all over the world. The city is also famous for running waste management campaigns that educate the public on recycling habits. In addition to this, Calgary was recently voted the cleanest city in Canada, with an air quality index of 72.58. This alone makes it a perfect destination for work or living.
Other cities that rank among the least polluted in the world include Sydney in Australia, Vienna in Austria, Whitehorse in Canada, and Mysore in India. For a more comprehensive and interactive look at pollution scenarios across various locations globally, look at the Dealchecker resource available online.