A unique effect of the shut down of the world due to COVID-19, is the sudden decrease in CO2 emissions. By July 2, 2020, there was a 17% decrease in carbon emissions, giving scientists a rare opportunity to discover how the environment would react to a CO2 emissions decrease – assuming we will get there at all. However, China has proven that this is short lived. As the first country to both lock down and reopen, China saw people returning to their usual lives and the exorbitant increase of emissions that came with it. One of the reasons for this is to try and make up for lost time. After shutting the country down, China is attempting to revive their economy, even if it means building new coal-fired power plants. 

“We still have the same cars, the same roads, the same industries, same houses, so as soon as the restrictions are released, we go right back to where we were.”

– Corinne La Quéré,  Professor of Climate Change Science at the University of East Anglia

In all, transportation makes up 23% of global carbon emissions. These emissions have increased during the pandemic. Due to social distancing measures, there are more car emissions, as people no longer want to take public transportation, and many people are now riding alone rather than carpooling to the same destination. The high number of COVID-19 cases in cities has scared a third of Americans into considering moving to the suburbs.

The largest factor in carbon emissions in manufacturing. The economy is currently set up in such as way that carbon emissions is a necessity. With countries shut down, there has been a drop in emissions; however, this has also brought down the economy. COVID-19 is not the first time a direct correlation between carbon emissions and our planet has happened. The financial crash of 2008-09 led to an emission drop by 1.3%, but rose again in 2010 leading to an all-time high. In all, The pandemic is estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by 1600 million tonnes in 2020.

Airlines have taken one of the hardest hits from the pandemic with a record breaking 96% decrease in air travel – the lowest in 75 years. They make up between 2% and 3% of the worlds CO2 emissions. Although this has created a momentary ‘win’ for the environment, it may, in the long run, ultimately cause irreparable climate damage. Future carbon emission caps for airlines was planned to have a 2020 baseline. However, due to the low air travel in 2020, 2019 is now being considered, by the United Nations, for the baseline measurement.

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