The coronavirus lockdown has put an unprecidented hold on human's impact on the environment. With people in quarantine and industries ground to a halt, the natural world has flourished. Animals have returned to cities, the water is cleaner, and the air quality has improved immesurably. Climate experts have noted that the air over cities have become significantly cleaner.
A study published in Nature Climate Change has shown that the daily CO2 emissions in April had dropped around 17% worldwide compared to the mean temperature of 2019. Some places dropped by as much as a third, mostly due to fewer cars on the road. If the trends continues, the wrould could see a further seven percent drop in emissions.
Getting the specific numbers is a difficult task. Much of the CO2 is obscured by the natural processes of the earth like trees taking in the gas and expelling oxygen. Instead, the scientists involved made a model using data from industrial using private electric use, cars on the road, industrial output, airline flights, and manufacturing. There are other factors involved as well. Countries like China, which has a heavy manufacturing industry, saw a much deeper drop as their industries shuttered early. “Because CO2 stays in the atmosphere a long, long time, even though we had a massive change in emissions, that did not affect the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere very much,” says climate scientist Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, lead author on the paper. “It's small compared to what we've put in the atmosphere for decades.”
Despite this hopeful statistic, this shouldn't induce complacency. The climate crisis has been one of the most destructive legacies of the human race, and the effects can be seen in our oceans, in the deadly storms and forest fires, in the deaths of millions, in the extinctions of millions of plant and animal species. “How on Earth are we going to succeed in bringing emissions down to zero when you see what it takes now to bring the emissions down 17 percent?” asks Le Quéré. “I mean, this is not the way to tackle climate change—a forced, unpleasant confinement.”