Research results from The Cyprus Institute were recently highlighted in the renowned New Scientist magazine. The article "Greek economic crisis has cleared the air" in the January issue, elucidates that there is a decline in air pollution in the wake of the financial crisis. Research Scientist, Dr. Mihalis Vrekoussis of The Cyprus Institute and his colleagues used three satellites and a network of ground-based instruments to measure air pollution over Greece between 2007 and 2011.
Levels of nitrogen dioxide fell over the whole country, with a particularly steep drop of 30 to 40 per cent over Athens. Nitrogen monoxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide also fell (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50118).
Pollution levels have been falling since 2002, but the rate accelerated after 2008 by a factor of 3.5, says Vrekoussis. He found that the drop in pollution correlated with a decline in oil consumption, industrial activity and the size of the economy. "This suggests that the additional reported reduction in gas pollutant levels is due to the economic recession," says Dr. Mihalis Vrekoussis of The Cyprus Institute.
The article went on to say that a combination of heavy car use and lots of sunshine have created serious health problems in Athens, and the decline in air pollution could bring real benefits to the city residents.
Greece, however, is not seizing the current opportunity, says Vrekoussis. "Investments in clean technologies and low-carbon green strategies have been abandoned," he says. "I'm afraid that in the long run the negative effects will override the positives."
The research was led by Dr. Mihalis Vrekoussis, a Research Scientist at the Energy, Environment and Water Research Center (EEWRC) of The Cyprus Institute in collaboration with other scientists from the Institute including Professors Len Barrie, Jos Lelieveld and Nikos Mihalopoulos. Other collaborators were from Greece; the Academy of Athens, the University of Crete and the National Observatory of Athens, and from Germany; the University of Bremen and the Max Planck Institute.