A scientific study published Tuesday shows COVID-19-related restrictions imposed by governments around the world since March drove a decline of daily global greenhouse emissions by as much as 17% by early April.
But the authors of the study, published Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, say the drastic improvement is likely to be temporary as economies resume.
The study says that in the years leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) were rising by about 1% per year over the previous decade. But population confinement has led to drastic changes in energy use, and, therefore, CO2 emissions.
The researchers say restrictive measures drove drops in demand for electrical generation and industrial and transportation activity – the sectors responsible for 86% of CO2 emissions.
Even if the world’s economies return to normal, the study projects that total emissions for 2020 will likely fall between 4% and 7% compared with the prior year, though the final 2020 figure will depend on how rapidly, or cautiously, people around the world resume their regular activities.
The researchers say government policies toward energy and emissions following the pandemic will likely influence the global CO2 emissions path for decades. The Washington Post reports leaders in Germany and Britain have observed the positive changes and pledged to pursue policies that will continue lowering emissions post-pandemic.