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A top professor believes we are likely to see the smallest increase in CO2 emissions this year since 2009.
The coronavirus shutdown – which has had a huge impact on people’s work and travel – has been cited as the reason some cities and regions are showing significant drops in air pollution and gas emissions.
Researchers from Columbia University in New York have collected data which suggests that the decrease in travel is having a notable impact on emissions.
They say city traffic levels have been slashed by an estimated 35 percent in comparison to a year ago, with carbon monoxide emissions – mainly due to cars – having halved for a couple of days this week.
CO2 emissions peak in May due to the decomposition of leaves. The researchers believe that when levels are measured at this point, they might be at their lower for more than a decade.
Prof Róisín Commane, from Columbia University, who carried out the New York air monitoring work, told the BBC: “I expect we will have the smallest increase in May to May peak CO2 that we’ve had in the northern hemisphere since 2009, or even before.”
Professor Corinne Le Quéré, from the University of East Anglia, added that CO2 levels could be lowered across the year as a result of the shutdown. She said: “It will depend on how long the pandemic lasts, and how widespread the slowdown is in the economy particularly in the US. But most likely I think we will see something in the global emissions this year. If it lasts another three of four months, certainly we could see some reduction.”
But she warned that the way governments act to re-stimulate economies could impact the levels once the corona shutdown is over, saying: “Governments now have to be really cautious about how they re-stimulate their economies, mindful of not locking in fossil fuels again.
“They should focus those things that are ready to go that would lower emissions, like renovating buildings, putting in heat pumps and electric chargers. These are not complicated and can be done straight away, they are just waiting for financial incentives.”