The world’s air is the cleanest it has been since 2006
At the peak of the pandemic lockdown, more than 3.9 billion people were ordered to stay at home, which made for a cleaner world with less pollution.
Slowly, countries are easing restrictions in attempts to restart life in the new normal. But a recent study has revealed all the time spent off the streets has had a significant impact on the environment.
The Nature Climate Change report found the amount of carbon emissions has reduced dramatically to a level that hasn’t been seen since 2006.
At the lockdown peak, emissions in individual countries decreased by an average of 26%, according to the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal.
Improved air quality is a welcome result as the amount of CO2 humans are responsible for generating dropped 17% each day compared to 2019.
The study assessed power, industry, surface transport, public buildings and commerce, residential and aviation across more than 69 countries, which represent 97% of global CO2 emissions.
"The data represents change in activity, such as electricity demand or road and air traffic, rather than direct changes in CO2 emissions," the report explains.
Travel restrictions reduced aviation pollution, making it a hefty sector for change with a decrease in daily activity of 75% during population confinement. However, Nature Climate Change states the aviation sector contributes just 10% of the decrease in global carbon dioxide emissions – a small figure in comparison to more influential industries.
The amount of carbon emissions has reduced dramatically to a level that hasn’t been seen since 2006.
Power and industry was one of the greatest affected sectors, resulting in 86% of total emission reduction.
One of the most responsive industries in cleaning the air was the surface transport sector, which includes cars, light vehicles, buses, trucks and national and international shipping.
The sector accounts for almost half of the decrease in emissions during the global lockdown. The report found surface transport dropped 36% by 7 April 2020.
The results are impressive given carbon dioxide emissions were rising about 1% every year during the past decade.
Air pollution has plunged in most areas of the world, including in China – the world’s biggest source of carbon emissions.
However, experts don’t believe it’s enough to stop climate change entirely, rather acting as a taste of just how quickly the Earth can reset.
"Most changes observed in 2020 are likely to be temporary as they do not reflect structural changes in the economic, transport or energy systems," the study states. "But, social responses alone, as shown here, would not drive the deep and sustained reductions needed to reach net-zero emissions.
"Government actions and economic incentives post crisis will likely influence the global CO2 emissions path for decades."