CO2 Reductions Due To COVID-19

A new peer reviewed paper in Nature states that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, global CO2 emissions decreased by 17% by early April 2020 when compared with the mean 2019 levels. 

Before I go any further, it must be understood that there is no way to get actual data for CO2 emissions and these findings are estimates based on models.  CO2 emissions are estimated based on power plant output, estimate use of internal combustion engines and other proxy data estimates.  

Since we can’t measure CO2 emissions in real time, the authors of this paper devised a model to calculate the reduction in CO2 emissions by developing something they call a “confinement index (CI)” to capture the effect of various policies that affected Power, Industry, Surface Transport, Public, Residential and Aviation based on 3 different levels of confinement. 

Lots of good work went into this paper and while the paper’s results are derived from a simulation from a model, I think we can all agree that during this COVID-19 pandemic, CO2 emissions were definitely attenuated so I can’t fault any of their numbers.  It’s the best estimate we have to go on!

Here are the results of the paper in graphical format.


This COVID-19 Pandemic will amount to a massive Economic, Social and Environmental experiment that is on a level never conceived of prior to the SARS-COV-2 virus coming on the scene and I expect hundreds of papers to be published over the coming year to analyze this.  But I hope there are at least a few papers authored to help understand the environmental impacts of this global lockdown. 

The Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) hypothesis states that increased atmospheric CO2 levels (measured in parts per million – PPM) is causing the Earth to warm and furthermore, the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels is directly traced to humans emitting more CO2 through their increased use of fossil fuels.  

Even the wildest dreams of the most radical AGW believers didn’t propose the CO2emission attenuation that we have seen in the past few months but now we can put the AGW hypothesis to the test.  If human caused CO2 emissions is the source of Global Warming and elevated CO2 levels in the atmosphere, then we should see a sharp decrease in the measured CO2 levels in our atmosphere in the coming months and therefore a decrease in global temperatures anomalies. 

Unlike the simulated CO2 emissions data, atmospheric CO2 levels are measured quite accurately monthly and I have plotted the data from 1970 through April 2020 below.   

Let’s watch this data over the coming months to see if there is a decrease in atmospheric CO2 from this drastic energy attenuation during the COVID-19 pandemic!

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