Photo: Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution fell drastically in parts of Italy — a direct result of the country closing borders and businesses to mitigate the novel coronavirus outbreak, The Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The drop in saturation of greenhouse gases in Italy shows the impact humans have on the environment, and how quickly emissions can plummet when people reduce the burning of fossil fuels, the Post writes. Nitrogen dioxide is not the primary greenhouse gas linked to climate change, but serves as a proxy for other emissions.

  • It also is a pollutant that can increase the risk of asthma, inflammation of the lungs and other harmful health conditions.

The state of play: The decrease is likely a result of the decline in cars on the road, half of which run on diesel in Italy, along with power plants and industrial sources.

  • Experts said the changes likely reflect the decline of driving in particular, in a nation where over half of cars burn diesel.

Yes, but: Climate advocates didn't think it would take a pandemic for pollution to dip, per the Post.

  • The outbreak has prevented climate action protests from taking place.
  • Additionally, this drop is expected to be only temporary.

The bottom line: "Beyond the public health and economic crises, [Riccardo Valentini, a professor at Italy’s University of Tuscia] said, the pandemic ultimately could trigger the most significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of the past century," the Post writes.

Go deeper: Italy quarantines 16M as northern region placed on coronavirus lockdown

Go deeper

More than 32 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

More than 32 million Americans are receiving some form of unemployment benefits, according to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday.

Why it matters: Tens of millions of jobless Americans will soon have a smaller cash cushion — as coronavirus cases surge and certain parts of the country re-enter pandemic lockdowns — barring an extension of the more generous unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of the month.

1 hour ago - Sports

Alumni fight to save college sports

Data: Mat Talk Online; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

242 collegiate athletic programs have been cut amid the pandemic, altering the careers and lives of thousands of student-athletes.

Yes, but: Some passionate alumni groups have opted to fight, banding together in hopes of saving the programs they helped build and continue to love.

1 hour ago - World

The U.S.-China trade war quietly escalates

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Alex Wong/Getty Images and Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Lost amid headlines about the coronavirus pandemic and the seemingly unstoppable stock market rally, has been the monthslong escalation of tensions in the U.S.-China trade war —  and it's likely here to stay.

Why it matters: The tariffs continue to impress a sizable tax on U.S. companies and consumers, adding additional costs and red tape for small businesses, farmers, manufacturers and households trying to stay afloat amid the pandemic.