UCLA experts comment on region’s cleaner air under stay-at-home order

April 17, 2020

With Southern California experiencing a dramatic reduction in traffic and air pollution, UCLA experts were quoted in several media stories about the impacts of the stay-at-home order on air quality.

Photo source: Joel Muniz/Unsplash

CNN reported that Yifang Zhu (professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health) and her research found that there was a 20% improvement in overall air quality in Southern California between March 16 and April 6, and there has been 80% less traffic across the state since the stay-at-home order.

“From the society level, I think we need to think really hard about how to bring about a more sustainable world, where technologies and policies come together to bring cleaner energy,” Zhu told CNN. 

In an interview with LAist, J.R. DeShazo (professor of public policy and director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation) cautioned against seeing only the benefits of the improved air quality and ignoring the effects on public health and the economy.

“The silver lining is if we were able to actually transition to electric vehicles, or transition more to public transit and give people the spatial access to live their lives fully — and without polluting the air and impacting the climate,” De Shazo said.

Read more on CNN and LAist

Additional coverage:

UCLA experts show LA air quality has improved, but encourage thinking long-term. Daily Bruin, 8 May 2020.

As Californians stay at home, air quality improves — for now. CalMatters, 12 April 2020.

Coronavirus got rid of smog. Can electric cars do so permanently? Wall Street Journal, 10 April 2020.

The silver lining to coronavirus lockdowns: Air quality is improving Washington Post, 10 April 2020.

Learn more about Zhu’s related SLA-GC research.