Has Climate Change Improved as COVID-19 has Gotten Worse?


Kendall Law, Science and Technology Writer

While no people have enjoyed living in a pandemic, the planet thinks otherwise. Throughout 2020, carbon dioxide emissions have gone down all over the world. 

As each country was forced to lock down for Covid-19, scientists noticed carbon emissions drop. In the first six months of 2020, carbon emissions dropped 8.8% compared to the first six months of 2019. According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.A., all transportation produced 28.2 of the country’s carbon emissions in 2018. Because of the restrictions on public transport and people just having fewer places to go to, carbon emissions from transportation have gone down this year. 

Due to travel restrictions, emissions from cars and airplanes have gone down since March of 2020. According to Statista, on May 4th, 2020, flights were down by 69.9 percent globally from the same week in 2019. On November 23, 2020, flights were down globally by 45.3%. According to the University of California, in the six weeks after the San Francisco Bay Area instituted the nation’s first shelter-in-place mandate in response to the pandemic, carbon dioxide emissions went down by 25%, almost all of it due to a 50% decrease in road traffic. 

While the pandemic has decreased carbon emissions greatly worldwide, climate change hasn’t actually gotten any better. According to the World Meteorological Organization the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has not gone down. The major decrease in emissions is not because we as humans made a deliberate change, it’s because we temporarily had to adapt to traveling less and working from home. When the pandemic slows and people can go places and safely travel again, carbon emissions will go right back up, unless we make a change. The authors of a study that appeared in the Lancet Oncology said in a research paper that “‘The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of science and public health,’ said Beyeler, “and we have seen over the past months that as a global health community, we are able to mobilize the investments, research, and collective action needed to solve health problems on a global scale. Now is the time to apply this ambition to tackling the climate crisis.’”. 

Ms. Johnson, an Upper School Science teacher, when asked what is one thing you think people should make an effort to do to help with the climate crisis is said, “One thing I think we could all do is share resources better”. We as humans made a quick rapid change to our lives to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, why couldn’t we do it for the climate crisis? 

Each area of the world has been affected by both climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. “Climate change is affecting everyone in different ways. For example, people in California are being affected by wildfires whereas places like Florida and Puerto Rico are facing worsening hurricanes” noted Violet Perloff ’24. People in places like these are more directly affected by climate change unlike other states like Delaware where we are not affected with such large scale natural disasters.  

The pandemic has shown us that we are capable of the changes needed to fix the climate crisis. But first, we need to fix the pandemic crisis at hand. We saw from the pandemic that drastic changes can impact carbon dioxide emissions. After the pandemic is over, it will be time for a national climate change policy.