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Global slowdown not having as big an effect on climate change as you might think

Even with temporarily lower emissions during the pandemic, greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise.

Covid-19 has given us immense challenges for healthcare, manufacturing, global trade, and travel. But has it been good for the environment?

The short answer: yes. Fewer people traveling on jet airplanes, a shutdown of manufacturing, and more people staying home has had a positive effect on human-caused global warming, but it's not likely to have a long-term effect. 

Carbon dioxide is estimated to have dropped 8% year-to-year but levels are still set to beat records set in 2019. Carbon dioxide is the leading contributor to human-caused global warming, taking up 66% of the pie. Air quality is a different story; carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years, while other air pollutants are gone much sooner.

Last year, record concentrations of greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide were observed. Levels have come down dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic but are expected to March. But the trend is not expected to last as manufacturing and travel resume following the outbreak. The key will be whether strategies will be implemented to lower the levels of pollution. More "zoom meetings" and less air travel could be a simple step in the right direction.

Like Covid-19, greenhouse gases respect no political boundaries. Curbing climate change will likely not be successful without collaborations between nations. According to the United Nations, the focus moving forward should be on long-term health, including climate change prevention and mitigation.

Climate change experts at NOAA and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography conclude that while we have seen a reduction in pollution, Covid-19 will not cure or treat the problem of human-caused global warming.

-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen