KENSINGTON, Md. – The world cut its daily carbon dioxide emissions by 17% at the peak of the pandemic shutdown last month, a new study found.
But with life and heat-trapping gas levels inching back toward normal, the brief pollution break will likely be “a drop in the ocean" when it comes to climate change, scientists said.
In their study of carbon dioxide emissions during the coronavirus pandemic, an international team of scientists calculated that pollution levels are heading back up — and for the year will end up between 4% and 7% lower than 2019 levels. That’s still the biggest annual drop in carbon emissions since World War II.
It’ll be 7% if the strictest lockdown rules remain all year long across much of the globe, 4% if they are lifted soon.
For a week in April, the United States cut its carbon dioxide levels by about one-third. China, the world’s biggest emitter of heat-trapping gases, sliced its carbon pollution by nearly a quarter in February, according to a study Tuesday in the journal Nature Climate Change. India and Europe cut emissions by 26% and 27% respectively.
The biggest global drop was from April 4 through 9 when the world was spewing 18.7 million tons (17 million metric tons) of carbon pollution a day less than it was doing on New Year’s Day.
Such low global emission levels haven't been recorded since 2006. But if the world returns to its slowly increasing pollution levels next year, the temporary reduction amounts to ‘’a drop in the ocean," said study lead author Corinne LeQuere, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia.
“It’s like you have a bath filled with water and you’re turning off the tap for 10 seconds," she said.