A new report found that greenhouse gas emissions in the United States fell by over 10% in 2020, partly due to reductions in travel and industry brought on by the pandemic. The estimate by Rhodium group is the largest drop in emissions since the second world war.
The change will help the United States in its goal toward reducing emissions as part of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Biden administration has pledged to return to the agreement after President Trump snubbed it.
Emissions in the power sector dropped by 10%, while transportation dropped significantly as people stayed local because of coronavirus lockdowns. Jet fuel demand was 68% lower than 2019 and gasoline use dropped 40% in April and May of 2020.
But because the drop is tied to the pandemic, as soon as it ends, scientists believe emissions will normalize.“The emission reductions of 2020 have come with an enormous toll of significant economic damage and human suffering,” wrote authors Kate Larsen, Hannah Pitt and Alfredo Rivera.“With coronavirus vaccines now in distribution, we expect economic activity to pick up again in 2021, but without meaningful structural changes in the carbon intensity of the US economy, emissions will likely rise again as well.”
The bounce back from the pandemic must include environmental measures to keep emissions low to avoid climate change catastrophes.
“Reducing the economy by killing the economy and putting millions of people out of work isn’t what anyone wants and it’s pernicious to celebrate this as it reinforces the false idea that we can only reduce emissions by harming the economy,” said John Sterman, of the MIT Sloan School of Management in The Guardian. “We need to use this horrible pandemic to rebuild an economy that is currently destroying our future, increasing inequality and harming our health. The most important thing is to focus investment on speeding the transition to renewables, as well as focus on opportunities such as energy efficiency.”
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