No cruise ships in Palma at the moment. | Peter Smiatek


The Balearic Ports Authority reports a 42% decrease in sulphur dioxide levels in Palma since restrictions on maritime traffic were introduced. This fall was sudden, as it occurred during the week following the declaration of the state of emergency. There were similar decreases in Mahon (-40.9%) and Ibiza (-33.4%). In Alcudia, the drop was more modest, while in La Savina the levels remained unaltered.

As for nitrogen oxide, which is more associated with vehicle traffic, there were falls of 31% and 24.7% in Palma and Ibiza respectively. In Mahon there was a 6.4% decrease, while in Alcudia and La Savina the levels went up by 11.2% and 12.4%. There were also significant decreases in noise levels. In Palma this was by eleven decibels, in Ibiza by ten, and in Alcudia by 16.

The Balearic government is also assessing the impact of the restrictions on air quality. Over the first few days of the restrictions, the monitoring stations didn't detect significant variations, although the director general for energy and climate change, Aitor Urresti, says that there certainly was a fall in contamination. The air quality in the Balearics is, in general, good and there is no problem related to vehicle traffic. "Palma is not Barcelona or Madrid."

The location of these stations may well explain the apparent lack of variation. "At first sight there are lower values, but we don't have sufficient data just yet." He notes that an atmospheric episode of dust from Africa may also have distorted data readings.

The director of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Climate Change at the University of the Balearic Islands, Damià Gomis, says that it's important to distinguish between emissions that are damaging to people's health and those which are responsible for climate change. The halt in economic activity, he explains, will affect contaminating emissions but will have not a great impact on climate change, as the problem with CO2 is cumulative. He adds that it is sad that it has taken a crisis for there to be a fall in emissions.