Global emissions drop by 8.8% in the first half of 2020!

The first half of 2020 has seen the largest recorded drop in carbon dioxide emissions since 2008! In comparison to last year global carbon emissions have dropped by an impressive 8.8%. This is the largest drop in carbon emissions in a year, ever recorded. This is even bigger than the drop from the oil crisis in 1979 and the Second World War. 

The team behind the research, published in the journal Nature Communications, have suggested that the reduction in daily emissions peaked in April, however, as parts of the world started to return to normalcy emissions began to increase gradually. 

COVID-19 Globe Mask and Gloves

What has caused the global emissions drop?

The scientific team behind this research have placed the cause of the fall in emissions on the COVID-19 pandemic. As governments across the world announced lockdowns and restrictions in early Spring the major polluters around the world ceased operations. As a result, energy demand decreased and subsequently so did harmful carbon emissions! 

You may remember that during lockdown that parts of the UK and Europe saw irregularly hot weather, this also contributed to the reduction in the greenhouse gas. The study also observed that the largest reduction in CO2 emissions came from the ground transportation sector, as businesses sent their employees home or started working from home. This resulted in a massive 40% drop in transport emissions worldwide! 

Even though most of us were working from home or furloughed the residential demand for energy decreased, though small in comparison to other sectors, this was still quite surprising. Overall, a less impressive 3% fall in global emissions was as a result of the residential sector’s reduced demand for energy. 


Are we on track to maintain the global emissions drop?

Unfortunately, it looks like even during peak lockdown, emissions began to rise toward similar or equal levels than that of last year. The study states that by July as lockdown measures across the world were being eased many countries resumed their usual habits and their emissions rose sharply; “By July 1, the pandemic’s effects on global emissions diminished as lockdown restrictions relaxed and some economic activities restarted, especially in China and several European countries,”

Despite the seeming positives of this study the overall conclusion was much more of a daunting reminder. The study concludes that the only way we can continue these trends and see the same massive decreases in emissions is with a complete overhaul of the industry and commerce sectors, globally. 

In fact, Co-Author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber  said “Instead we need structural and transformational changes in our energy production and consumption systems. Individual behavior is certainly important, but what we really need to focus on is reducing the carbon intensity of our global economy.”


What can we take away from the global emissions drop?

We can look at this period in our lives and use it to push for greater and more significant change. We know that massive decreases in emissions can be achieved globally, potentially simply by changing how we work! The future is quite bright, we should feel more hopeful than pessimistic. If anything, we know that we can do this, we just need to overcome some challenges to get there! 


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