Forecasting change: Did pandemic shutdowns help climate change?

Global carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly in 2020

Global carbon dioxide emissions
Global carbon dioxide emissions

ORLANDO, Fla. – One of the big stories of the pandemic was the recovery of the environment when the entire world suddenly came to a standstill.

Below we have a graphic from Climate Central that shows the dip in emissions in 2020.

Global carbon dioxide emissions

As great as that news would seem, there was little help in slowing the CO2 impacts.

Most of that drop in 2020 happened early, with the biggest drop coming in April when everything shut down. As the year went on, lockdowns ended, restrictions pulled back, and emissions started to climb.

So, the drop in emissions had little to no effect on global warming. In March, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reported a record CO2 level of more than 420 parts per million.

Part of the problem is CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere for years. The graphic below shows that they can linger up to 1,000 years!

Lifespan of pollutants

As jet travel, commutes and industry grow, we still have much work to do in preventing the increase of CO2 and the warming of the planet.

The need for more electric cars/transportation will grow and the need for a way to remove carbon from the atmosphere will be one of the most critical issues of our lives.


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