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Coronavirus could lead to biggest carbon dioxide emissions drop since World War II – ‘Sweeping halt of economic activity around the world’

By Alexandra Kelley

The sweeping halt of economic activity around the world has governments scrambling to provide adequate relief for vulnerable industries and people.

But one silver lining is emerging from this economic freeze: carbon emissions are down. And scientists estimate that they could fall even farther, specifically to pre-World War II levels.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 5 percent or more drop in carbon dioxide emissions this year, something not seen since the end of World War Two,” Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University in California, told Reuters.

This conclusion is based on data collected by the Global Carbon Project, of which Jackson is the chair.

The research group published “widely watched” annual emissions figures, Reuters reports. With Americans working from home and industries slashing production, scientists at the Global Carbon Project estimate that carbon output could see decreases of 5 percent or more on a year-on-year basis.

Experts have called for dramatic action to reduce climate change, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning of the catastrophic dangers to global health and called for a limit of a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperatures.

Satellite images captured the reduction in pollution over mainland China as industries shuttered to control the coronavirus spread.

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But, this silver lining may be short lived. With no permanent structural change in place for when the stay-at-home mandates end, the world is likely to return to producing its previous carbon emission levels.

“This drop is not due to structural changes so as soon as confinement ends, I expect the emissions will go back close to where they were,” Corinne Le Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in eastern England, told Reuters.