Energy & Environment

Historic wildfire season dents decline in US emissions during coronavirus pandemic


Extreme wildfires in the West have hindered the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions the U.S. expected to see this year as the coronavirus has stalled much of human activity.

A Thursday report from BloombergNEF found U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will drop 6.4 percent lower compared to last year, a significant drop, but below the 9.2 percent declines in emissions projected by researchers earlier this year.

Wildfires in the West have been some of the most devastating in history. In California alone, more than 4 million acres have burned this year.

The 2.8 percent increase in emissions from forest fires “partially offset the drop in emissions from human activity. The fires in the U.S. in 2020 are part of a global trend, since 2019, of forest fires occurring more frequently in temperate regions,” according to the report.

Still, coronavirus has pushed a massive decline in emissions, as transportation emissions have fallen by 4 percent and power sector emissions have fallen nearly 3 percent.

“The economic disruption of 2020 has inadvertently put the U.S. back on track to meet the commitments it made under the 2016 Paris Agreement,” the report found.

However, many of those gains are likely to be short-lived, particularly once the economy rebounds.

Many researchers have found the projected that the 8 percent global decline in emissions is in jeopardy, as emissions have already begun to creep back up.

“The changes we need must be year on year. An 8 percent decline in emissions would be a huge decrease,” Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Stanford University and head of the Global Carbon Project, previously told The Hill

“If next year is flat or goes back up, it’s not enough to get us to our climate needs,” he said.

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