Good news? Earth’s carbon dioxide emissions had record drop this year during the pandemic

Although it took a catastrophic global pandemic for it to occur, worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide had a record drop in 2020, a new report said.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which are the leading cause of global warming, fell by 7% in 2020, according to the report from the Global Carbon Project, a group of international scientists who track emissions.

That’s the biggest yearly drop on record, the group said.

Emissions from transportation accounted for the largest share of the global decrease, researchers said. Those from surface transport, such as car journeys, fell by approximately half at the peak of the COVID-19 lockdowns earlier in 2020.

“Of course, lockdown is absolutely not the way to tackle climate change,” said report co-author Corinne Le Quere, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in the U.K.

The report estimated that the world will have put 37 billion U.S. tons of carbon dioxide in the air in 2020. That’s down from 40.1 billion U.S. tons in 2019.

Emissions dropped 12% in the U.S. and 11% in Europe, but only 1.7% in China. That’s because China had an earlier lockdown with less of a second wave. Also China’s emissions are more industrial-based than other countries and its industry was less affected than transportation, Le Quere said.

Report: World not doing nearly enough to stop ‘catastrophic’ global warming, UN warns

Globally, the peak of the decrease in emissions in 2020 occurred in the first half of April, when lockdown measures were at their maximum, particularly across Europe and the U.S.

Lead researcher Pierre Friedlingstein of the University of Exeter in the U.K. said that “although global emissions were not as high as last year, they still amounted to about 37 billion tons of CO2, and inevitably led to a further increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. The atmospheric CO2 level, and consequently the world’s climate, will only stabilize when global CO2 emissions are near zero.”

More: Due to COVID-19, 2020 greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are predicted to drop to lowest level in three decades

Researchers warn that it is too early to say how much emissions will rebound by during 2021 and beyond, as the long-term trend will be largely influenced by actions to stimulate the global economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All elements are not yet in place for sustained decreases in global emission, and emissions are slowly edging back to 2019 levels,” Le Quere said. “Government actions to stimulate the economy at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic can also help lower emissions and tackle climate change.”

The report was published in the journal Earth System Science Data.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID, climate change: Record drop in world’s carbon dioxide emissions

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