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Study: Coronavirus shutdowns sparked a 17 percent drop in global carbon emissions

Fewer cars on the road means less pollution, but it’s just temporary.
Credit: AP
(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File)

TAMPA, Fla. — More than 90,000 people have died, more than 1.5 million people have been infected and more than 30 million people have lost their jobs.

And that’s just in the United States.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has devastated families, swamped health care systems and crippled entire economies. So, searching for a silver lining can seem futile – if not somewhat insensitive. 

But, there’s no denying the basic laws of nature. For every action there most certainly is a reaction, and that’s exactly what happened when governments around the globe ground their countries to a screeching halt.

Their collective decisions were made in a desperate attempt to slow the pandemic’s deadly spread, but they triggered an unintended consequence.

Earth got a chance to breathe.

RELATED: As people stay home, Earth turns wilder and cleaner

India saw blue skies over cities that have been choked by smog for decades, and China reported record-breaking reductions in air pollution.

Here in the states, NASA scientists said there was 30 percent less nitrogen dioxide hovering over Florida. The reason, however, doesn’t require a PhD to understand.

RELATED: NASA: Coronavirus has drastically improved Florida’s air quality\

More people quarantined at home means fewer cars and trucks pumping pollutants into the atmosphere. In fact, a study published Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change calculated that daily carbon emissions in 2020 are down about 17 percent worldwide from 2019 levels.

But, the authors are not under any illusions that the sudden drop-off will last.

According to the study, if lockdowns are lifted and the world returns to “pre-pandemic conditions” by mid-June, the overall reduction of greenhouse gases for 2020 will end up closer to seven percent.

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