An international study of global carbon emissions found that daily emissions declined 17% between January and early April, compared to average levels in 2019, and could decline anywhere between 4.4% to 8% by the year’s end. Emissions haven’t been this low since 2006.
The study, which appeared today in the journal Nature Climate Change, centered on 69 countries, all 50 US states and 30 Chinese provinces, which account for 85% of the world population and 97% of all global carbon dioxide emissions.
By the numbers: By the end of April, carbon emissions are estimated to have declined by 1,048 metric tons, according to the researchers — that’s roughly 2,312,649 pounds.
The decline is largest in China, where the pandemic began, where emissions dropped 533,500-plus pounds. In the US, carbon emissions declined by 456,350-plus pounds. China and the US are the two largest carbon emitters globally.
By the end of the year, emissions will have declined somewhere between 4.4% and 8%, the researchers predict. It’s the most significant decline in over a decade, but it’s the result of forced changes, not the restructuring of global economies and energy.
According to United Nations Environment projections, to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% every single year between now and 2030.
Unclear trend: It’s not clear how long or severe the coronavirus pandemic will be, which makes it difficult to predict how emissions will be affected long-term. And, because the changes driving reduced emissions haven’t fundamentally changed the economy or the energy much of the world relies on, the declines are likely to be temporary. Plus, 2020 is still on track to be one of the top five hottest years on record.