By Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich
After a drastic decline this spring, global greenhouse gas emissions are now rebounding sharply, scientists reported, as countries relax their coronavirus lockdowns and traffic surges back onto roads. It’s a stark reminder that even as the pandemic rages, the world is still far from getting global warming under control.
In early April, daily fossil fuel emissions worldwide were roughly 17 percent lower than they were in 2019, as governments ordered people to stay home, employees stopped driving to work, factories idled and airlines grounded their flights, according to a study published in May in Nature Climate Change.
But by mid-June, as countries eased their lockdowns, emissions had ticked up to just 5 percent below the 2019 average, the authors estimated in a recent update. Emissions in China, which accounts for one-quarter of the world’s carbon pollution, appear to have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
In the United States, electricity demand had inched back closer to 2019 levels by June after a steep decline in the spring. But that didn’t mean that the economy has fully recovered, said Steve Cicala, an economics professor at the University of Chicago who has been tracking electricity data. One factor may be that people are running their personal air-conditioners more often during hot weather as they stay at home.