In 2020, world carbon dioxide emissions fell 7 percent

Steam and exhaust rise from industrial complexes in Germany.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With the coronavirus pandemic causing people to cut back on commuting and traveling, the world's carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 7 percent in 2020, the Global Carbon Project said.

The Global Carbon Project is a group of international scientists who track emissions. In a study published Thursday in the journal Earth System Science Data, the researchers write that preliminary figures show the world will have put 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air during 2020, down from 40.1 billion tons in 2019. This is the biggest drop ever, the authors said.

The decrease is due to car and plane travel plummeting, but even with this drop, the world on average put 1,185 tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air every second this year. Emissions were reduced 12 percent in the United States, 11 percent in Europe, and 1.7 percent in China, where there was an earlier lockdown and less of a second wave of coronavirus infections, The Associated Press notes.

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Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, told AP even though emissions are expected to rise once the pandemic is over, "I am optimistic that we have, as a society, learned some lessons that may help decrease emissions in the future. For example, as people get good at telecommuting a couple of days a week or realize they don't need quite so many business trips, we might see behavior-related future emissions decreases."

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