Science Newsletter #7: The Paris Climate Agreement and COVID-19’s Impacts on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Christopher Owen

Why Is It Important That the United States Rejoined The Paris Climate Agreement? 

The Paris Climate Agreement is an international pact where over 200 countries have sworn to curb their greenhouse gas emissions via renewable energy and environmental regulations in order to alleviate the effects global warming has on our planet. A few years ago, The Trump Administration withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement on top of weakening nearly 100 climate policies intended to protect endangered wildlife species/habitats and significantly reduce air/water pollution. Last Wednesday, after the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the 46th President of the United States, the United States officially rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement to help mitigate the country’s hefty greenhouse gas emissions. This was an essential step in working towards a safer and cleaner future for our planet as a result of the US being the world’s second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, producing a whopping 4.8 million tons on average each year. Recommitting the nation to the Paris Climate Agreement will help curb emissions and lower the overall levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, providing a valuable solution to mitigating the detrimental effects of climate change. In addition to this, President Biden signed an executive order canceling the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that was intended to deliver carbon-dense oil from Canada all the way to the Gulf Coast. For a country that has remained dependent on fossil fuels for centuries, this pipeline installation would not only have increased greenhouse gas emissions but would have served as a setback during a time where climate change awareness is crucial for the sake of saving our planet.



How COVID-19 Has Decreased Greenhouse Gas Emissions

It is no doubt that COVID-19 has been ravaging the United States with more than 25 million cases and over 400,000 deaths in the past year. With patients fighting for their lives and healthcare employees working around the clock to treat those infected, people are seeking any glimpse of hope in a time of extreme loss and crisis. There is good news in the environmental world as greenhouse gas emission levels have plummeted 10 percent in the last year, the biggest decrease in the past few decades. This drastic drop resulted from the increased limitation on manufacturing and distribution methods companies are now required to follow in order to comply with COVID-19 regulations. With a lower amount of products being manufactured and a fewer number of workers, greenhouse gas emission levels have sharply fallen. Furthermore, this decline came as a result of transportation, which continues to remain reliant on fossil fuels. This industry experienced a 14.7 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions last year since mass transit lost customers and airlines canceled thousands of flights. Americans drove 15 percent less and demand for gasoline as well as jet fuel dropped by over one-third. This steady decline is expected to continue throughout the course of the pandemic, contributing to lower greenhouse gas emission levels and a cleaner atmosphere to alleviate the detrimental effects of climate change. It is no question that COVID-19 has been causing immense suffering and hardship to millions of people across the world, placing more stress and anxiety on all of us who fear this pandemic will not end soon. Although this dramatic decline is critical for our planet to heal, it will not be enough, in the long run, to help mitigate the impacts climate change has on Earth. While greenhouse gas emissions are lower than they have been in decades, it is essential for us to become aware of the importance of taking action for the sake of saving our planet.