Factory shutdowns, travel bans and a squeeze on demand spell economic disaster, but it isn’t all bad news for the environment.
In the four weeks to March 1, China’s CO2 emissions fell 200 million tonnes, or 25 percent, compared to the same period last year, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
That’s a decline equivalent to annual CO2 emissions from Argentina, Egypt or Vietnam.
The slowdown in China also saw coal consumption at power plants there down 36 percent, and the use of oil at refineries drop by nearly as much.
Air travel is also grinding to a virtual halt, achieving at least a short-term drop-off in emissions from a highly polluting industry.
And there have been other environmental benefits, including crystal-clear waters in Venice canals usually choked with tourist-laden boats.
Unfortunately, experts say the cleaner air may be short-lived.
Once the health crisis is over, experts expect countries will double down to try to make up for lost time, with climate change concerns likely to be sidelined in a race to recover economic growth.