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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

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
3 hours ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

3 hours ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

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