As the World Grinds to a Halt, Global Emissions Have Plummeted

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Credit: Visual Capitalist

One positive consequence of global lockdowns, the shutting of borders, and self-quarantines appear to be a significant drop in world emissions. The coronavirus pandemic has forced flights to stop, factories to shut down, refineries to temporarily halt and people to stay at home rather than drive their vehicles.

China’s carbon dioxide emissions since February have been about 25% lower than February 2019, as calculated by Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, reports the New York TimesThis decline is equal to New York state’s annual output, or about 150 million metric tons, says Myllyvirta. NASA has also reported that it has seen big drops in nitrogen dioxide over China, an air pollutant that can lead to respiratory symptoms.

In Italy, the number of active coronavirus cases has surpassed China (including the death toll). Everything from schools and shops, to restaurants and even some churches, are closed, and with many Italians urged to work from home where possible, visible economic activity has dropped considerably. The above 10-day moving average animation (from January 1st—March 11th, 2020) of nitrogen dioxide emissions across Europe clearly shows how the drop in Italy’s economic activity has had a positive impact on the environment.

As difficult as things might be right now there is light at the end of the tunnel. Mainland China hasn’t reported any new coronavirus cases in three days, and life is beginning to return to normal. The positive environmental impacts seen in such a short amount of time could hopefully influence future behavior and policies. And maybe, just maybe, we can finally put an end to the ridiculous notion that it’s the cows that are ruining our planet!

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