Entering the 6th week of self-isolation, the U.S. is experiencing the largest economic downturn since the 1930’s Great Depression. This downturn is coupled with an equally large decrease in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, but sadly at a rate far short of those necessary to combat global climate change.
Mass layoffs and work-from-home orders have primarily decreased carbon emissions associated with the transportation industry. Traffic is down 36% or more in various urban centers. and the air travel industry has taken an even larger hit, resulting in plummeting oil prices and a collapse in global oil demand. While the transportation industry has declined, power generation, shipping, and manufacturing have remained steady contributors to carbon emissions figures. Electricity generation and manufacturing are still largely dependent on petrochemical use and account for 80% of total carbon emissions. The distinct interconnectedness of fossil fuels and the global economy is the driving force preventing drastic emissions declines. Current annual projections forecast emissions declines of 5% globally. While this is the largest annual decline on record, it falls short of the 7.6% decline necessary to prevent temperatures from rising 1.5°C above pre-industrial revolution temperatures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) established this limit aiming to mitigate global warming while setting an achievable goal.