Factory Emissions on Pace to Drop Dramatically in 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has been economically devastating to an extent we don’t fully know yet. It’s no secret factories around the world have scaled back production, or even closed altogether for stretches of time. But even the darkest cloud has a silver lining. A report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects as much as a 7.5% drop in fossil fuel emissions this year — the first drop since 2008 and the largest since 1990. While COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the economy, it’s inadvertently aiding in the fight against climate change.
This isn’t a completely novel occurrence. Last time manufacturing emissions fell substantially was 2008, when the economy turned down sharply during the recession. Emissions fell by 7.3% that year. Going back, a pattern of reduced emissions coincides with economic turmoil, showing us that economic pains are a boon to the environment. As shelter in place orders continue to blanket major manufacturing hubs around the world, it’s no surprise that this year’s emissions drop will be one of the largest in history.
Satellite images tell the tale of reduced emissions
The report by the EIA doesn’t come lightly. In fact, it’s backed by some staggering satellite images of countries affected by COVID-19 that have since enacted shelter in place decrees. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), one of the primary greenhouse gasses monitored, can be seen from space using thermal satellite imaging. Countries like China and Italy, where the virus has hit hardest, show substantial drops in measurable gasses.
According to images provided by the World Economic Forum (WEF), emissions are dropping by more than 25% in many key manufacturing hubs. China’s emissions sank as much as 30% during the shelter in place that stretched from Wuhan to Beijing and Shanghai, according to NASA. In Italy, where manufacturing in the north represents as much as 24% of the country’s GDP, imaging shows a substantial drop-off, coinciding with the country’s lockdown.
Although satellite imaging isn’t yet available for countries like Germany, Canada, or the U.S., analysts predict similar results.
What does the reduction in emissions mean for manufacturers?
Such a dramatic reduction in factory emissions has many implications for manufacturing. On the negative side, when factories return to full operation capacity, emissions will rise, which may ignite another debate about more stringent codes and compliances. Though it’ll merely be a rebound back to normal levels, it’s nonetheless a talking point for environmentalists.
On a more positive note, a reduction in emissions may result in savings for manufacturers in the form of hydrocarbon taxation. Manufacturers operating in countries with hydrocarbon duties will see significant savings in the reduction of emissions this year.
Although there’s still much uncertainty involved with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic ramifications, it’s certain we’ll see substantially lower factory emissions figures when all is said and done. There’s also a certain irony in all this: where President Trump has repeatedly decried climate change, he’ll now be the sitting President during the most substantial drop in emissions in U.S. (and perhaps world history).