The world has been forever changed in many ways thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but, thanks to the strict lockdowns imposed around the world, researchers say that's helped reduce daily global carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 17 percent.
According to the new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, daily carbon dioxide emissions around the world decreased by as much as 18.7 million tons as compared to the same time last year.
“Globally, we haven’t seen a drop this big ever, and at the yearly level, you would have to go back to World War II to see such a big drop in emissions,” said Corinne Le Quéré, a professor of climate change science at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., and the study’s lead author told NBC News. “But this is not the way to tackle climate change — it’s not going to happen by forcing behavior changes on people. We need to tackle it by helping people move to more sustainable ways of living.”
Similar daily carbon dioxide emissions at this level were last observed in 2006.
Lockdowns imposed by governments around the world had an especially big impact on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by transportation, industrial activities and air travel - it's likely to be enough to decrease 2020's annual carbon emissions by up to 7 percent. About 43 percent of the decreased carbon emissions came from the transportation sector, thanks to reduced traffic with cars, buses and trucks. Industrial carbon emissions fell by 19 percent, the study says.
However scientists caution that the decreases in carbon emissions are likely to be temporary unless governments begin significant investments in infrastructure and decarbonizing their economy.
The study did not look at whether global emissions will be further affected by new outbreaks and infections.
“If the outbreak lasts longer, we’ll have more depressed economic activity in 2021,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved with the new study. “It’s likely at this point that 2021 emissions will be below 2019 emissions but higher than 2020, unless things take a turn for the worse.”
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