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COVID-19 pandemic drives record drop in global carbon emissions

FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2015 file photo, steam billows from the chimney or a coal-fired...
FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2015 file photo, steam billows from the chimney or a coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, N.H. USA. The Paris Agreement on climate change comes into force Friday Nov. 4, 2016, after a year of remarkable success in international efforts to slash man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, FILE)(WIBW)
Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 7:56 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The world came to a halt this year, following a pandemic that forced many countries into a lockdown. The lockdowns drove people indoors, temporarily closed factories and essentially stopped numerous industries in their tracks. As a result, the Global Carbon Project says that global carbon emissions dropped at record levels.

The 2020 fossil carbon dioxide emissions decreased by an estimated roughly 2.6 billion tons, the largest drop ever recorded. Globally, emissions fell by 7% compared to 2019, with the largest share coming from road transportation. The lowest point of emissions occurred back in April when lockdown measures were at their maximum.

The report from the Global Carbon Project comes along with the five-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which President-elect Joe Biden says the US will rejoin on day one of his administration.

The U.S. saw the largest drop in emissions at 12%, followed by the European Union at 11%. China only saw a 1.7 % drop in carbon emissions.

While there was a drop in emissions globally, scientists say that this had little effect on the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which is causing the Earth to heat up and leading to worsening climate disasters. Lead researcher Pierre Friedlingstein of the University of Exeter stated that, although emissions aren’t as high as last year, they still amount to nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which further increases the concentration in our atmosphere. He says that the world’s climate will only stabilize when global emissions are near zero.

It’s too early to tell just how high emissions will rebound in 2021, but scientists say that a cut of one to two tons of global carbon emissions needs to be made each year between now and 2030 to limit the effects of climate change.

Climate change has already had a significant impact on the world, and just this year, there have been intense fires in Siberia, a record-breaking hurricane season and currently the second hottest year on record for the planet. As of now, 2020 is in a virtual tie with 2016 for being the hottest year on record, at just 0.02 degrees cooler.

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