With so much of industry and personal activity curtailed by coronavirus shutdowns across the globe, it is no surprise that greenhouse gas emissions have declined. According to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change, average daily global greenhouse gas emissions declined 17% by early April compared to 2019 levels.
If the reopenings around the world continue and the world actually reaches pre-crisis levels by the middle of June, total CO2 emissions for the year would likely end up lower by about 4%. If various restrictions continue until the end of the year, total global emissions could decline by 7%.
The study analyzed emissions estimates for three levels of coronavirus shutdowns and across six sectors of the economy. It looked at trends in 69 countries, all 50 U.S. states, and 30 Chinese provinces, representing in total 86% of the world’s population and 97% of global CO2 emissions.
For the first 4 months of the year, emissions from industry declined 19%, the power sector 7%, and public buildings and commerce 21%, compared to last year. Unsurprisingly, home energy use actually went up by about 3%.
The findings of this study only represent the effects of a short-lived decline in emissions. As economies open back up, there is no doubt that greenhouse gas emissions will rise back to pre-Covid-19 levels.
The study also reveals that making real changes in emissions will require more than just behavior changes. Despite billions of people staying home, companies shut down, planes grounded, and cars off the road, we still managed to pump more than 80% of the usual amount of greenhouse gases into the air for the first quarter of the year.
Photo, posted May 7, 2020, courtesy of the MTA via Flickr.