Daily CO2 Emissions Plunge During Global Lockdowns

Rodiano Bonacci
Mag 21, 2020

If the world could keep up annual emission cuts like this without a pandemic for a couple of decades, there was a decent chance Earth could avoid warming another 1C (1.8F) of warming from now, authors of the study said.

The study examines activity across 69 countries, including Australia, that capturies 97 per cent of global emissions, and compares emissions for the first four months of 2020 to the corresponding period in 2019.

The researchers estimate that reductions in the number of cars and other vehicles on the roads has led to a 36 per cent reduction in emissions in land transport, contributing to a 7.5 million tonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

China's daily emissions are estimated to have been down 23.9 percent compared to those of past year.

In early April 2020, emissions fell to 83 million tonnes per day, a drop of 17 per cent, and some countries' emissions dropped by as much as 26 per cent on average during the peak of the confinement. Such a drop could be the largest on record, the authors conclude. If some restrictions remain through the end of the year, 2020 emissions could still be as much as 7 percent lower.

They say emissions from surface transport, such as auto journeys, accounted for nearly half of the decrease in global emissions during peak confinement on April 7.

While the aviation sector is one of the hardest hit by the lockdown, it accounts for around 3 percent of global emissions - but it accounted for 10 percent of the emissions drop during the early days of the pandemic-prompted lockdown.

Emissions from industry and power account for 43% of the decrease in daily global emissions
Emissions from industry and power account for 43% of the decrease in daily global emissions

With economies recovering, people going back to work and industries firing up, the researchers expect global carbon emissions to drop by 7.5% for the whole year.

"With people being urged to stay home and isolate there was a corresponding increase in global residential emissions (2.8 per cent) which saw a 0.2 megatonne increase in Carbon dioxide at its peak decline".

"The emissions reductions occurring because of COVID-19 will clearly be unprecedented".

"Opportunities exist to make real, durable, changes and be more resilient to future crises, by implementing economic stimulus packages that also help meet climate targets, especially for mobility, which accounts for half the decrease in emissions during confinement", Le Quéré added. Given the impact of the pandemic on the United States, Europe, China, and Russian Federation, some of the highest emitters of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the level of CO2 fell dramatically over the last few months.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic triggered worldwide restrictions on movement, global greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing steadily year on year.

Almost half of the drop (43%) comes from people travelling on land - in cars, trains and buses - and a similar drop comes from fewer emissions from industry and energy production.

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