The pandemic appears to have done what years of increasingly dire warnings about climate change couldn't. Global carbon dioxide emissions fell by an estimated 7% in 2020, the largest drop on record, according to the Global Carbon Project. The emissions reduction was mainly the result of lockdowns keeping people at home and massively reducing international travel, Axios reports. According to a report in the journal Earth System Science Data, carbon emissions dived 12% in the US and 11% in Europe but just 1.7% in China. Study co-author Corinne LeQuere, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia, says the drop was less pronounced in China because the country had much less of a second wave and more of its emissions come from industry, not transportation, reports the AP.
"The restrictions implemented in response to COVID-19 led to dramatic and unprecedented changes in society, and this caused large changes in CO2 emissions," the report states. "All countries had significant deviations from their previous emission trends." "Of course, lockdown is absolutely not the way to tackle climate change," LeQuere says, but emissions growth had already slowed noticeably in 2019 and scientists hope that year could mark the peak year for carbon emissions. Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, says that to limit warming, the economic recovery shouldn't "go down the old path," the Guardian reports. "Just because you stop running the tap for a moment or two, that doesn’t change the fact that the bathtub is still full," she says. (Read more carbon emissions stories.)