- Melinda Murphy
Carbon emissions dropped 17 percent
By Denise Chow
The coronavirus pandemic has forced countries around the world to enact strict lockdowns, seal borders and scale back economic activities. Now, an analysis published Tuesday finds that these measures contributed to an estimated 17 percent decline in daily global carbon dioxide emissions compared to daily global averages from 2019.
It's a worldwide drop that scientists say could be the largest in recorded history. At the height of coronavirus confinements in early April, daily carbon dioxide emissions around the world decreased by roughly 18.7 million tons compared to average daily emissions last year, falling to levels that were last observed in 2006, according to the new study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Drastic changes in transportation, industrial activities and air travel in nations under lockdowns could also fuel a decrease in this year’s annual carbon emissions of up to 7 percent, the study found. Though significant, scientists say these declines are unlikely to have a long-term impact once countries return to normal unless governments prioritize investments and infrastructure to reduce harmful emissions.
“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. “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.”