Carbon emissions down 17 percent during COVID-19 pandemic

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Another dramatic number is coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world's carbon emissions decreased by 17 percent at the beginning of April.

"It was somewhat expected given that the global economy has come to a grinding halt," said Dr. Sarav Arunachalam of the UNC Institute for the Environment.

During the month of March, 3.6 billion people worldwide were in some type of quarantine. That led to a 50 to 80 percent reduction in road activity.

"That's a large change but at the same time one has to keep in mind -- this is not sustainable," Arunachalam said.

That's why scientists say we must be careful based on trends we've seen in the past, such as after the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.

"After that, we had energy demands and fossil fuel combustion went down by over 15 percent. But the very next year they ran back up to over 20 percent," Arunachalam said.

Scientists say now is the time to look at the trends and make changes.

"We have to think about more fundamental structural changes to the whole system and that's what will keep us sustainable and lead to a more sustainable environment," Arunachalam said.

Scientists say because of this dramatic decrease, we could see emissions about 6 to 8 percent lower for the entire year.
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