That’s how much carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to decrease in 2020, relative to 2019, according to a new study by international scientists at the Global Carbon Project.
The scientists believe the reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 can be attributed to a decrease in road transportation, which fell by half at the height of pandemic lockdowns and was still 10% below 2019 levels by December because of COVID-19 restrictions. While the decrease is positive for the environment, it’s still not nearly enough to halt global warming, researchers said.
“Although global emissions were not as high as last year, they still amounted to about 39 billion tonnes of CO2, and inevitably led to a further increase in CO2 in the atmosphere,” lead researcher Pierre Friedlingstein of the University of Exeter in Britain said in a statement. “The atmospheric CO2 level, and consequently the world’s climate, will only stabilise when global CO2 emissions are near zero.”
Many of the world’s economies have been greatly impacted this year—the International Monetary Fund forecasted that the pandemic could cause a 4.9% contraction in global GDP for the year. But the silver lining may be that travel restrictions seem to have significantly reduced the amount of greenhouse gas humans put into the atmosphere. The last time carbon dioxide emissions fell was in 2009, when they were reduced by just 0.5%.