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US carbon emissions fell 10% in 2020

January 12, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 41.1%. 2 min read.

Extremely light traffic moves along the 110 Harbor Freeway toward downtown mid afternoon, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Los Angeles. Traffic would normally be bumper-to-bumper during this time of day on a Friday. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ordering the state's 40 million residents to stay at home indefinitely. His order restricts non-essential movements to control the spread of the coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm the state's medical system. He called up 500 National Guard troops Thursday to help with distributing food. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

American greenhouse gas emissions slumped dramatically in 2020, helping the US meet one of its long-standing climate targets. But the drop came at a great economic cost -- and experts warn that unless climate action becomes a priority, emissions will bounce back quickly.

(CNN)US greenhouse gas emissions dropped dramatically in 2020, helping the country meet one of its long-standing climate targets.

The crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic caused US emissions to drop by 10. 3% last year, according to preliminary estimates by the Rhodium Group, a private data analytics firm.

That is the single biggest drop in annual emissions in the post-World War II era, the group said.

By comparison, the 2009 economic recession caused emissions to drop 6. 3%.

Last year's dramatic plunge means the US has met a key emission-cutting target set by the Obama administration.

"With coronavirus vaccines now in distribution, we expect economic activity to pick up again in 2021, but without meaningful structural changes in the carbon intensity of the US economy, emissions will likely rise again as well," they wrote.

Global Carbon Project estimates that emissions of heat-trapping gases decreased by around 7% globally last year.

To reach that goal, greenhouse emissions need to drop dramatically and soon.

The United Nations calculated last year that to stay within the 1. 5 degrees limit, emissions would need to fall by 7. 6% each year from 2020 to 2030.

"This [emissions] decline didn't happen as a result of strong government policies or major penetration of clean energy technologies -- this decline happened mainly as result of the economic downturn [and] pandemic," Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said at a news conference on Monday.

Emissions dropped largely because the pandemic brought some of the economy's most polluting sectors to a halt.

The Rhodium Group said that at the peak of lockdowns in April and May, demand for jet fuel had dropped 68% year on year, with gasoline down 40% and diesel 18% lower.

As a result, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation plunged by 14. 7% last year, compared to 2019.

Emissions from the US energy sector declined by 10. 3% in 2020.

Since reaching a peak in 2007, US emissions have declined by 1. 3% per year, on average, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

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