Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Reduced travel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last year resulted in the lowest level of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in three decades, according to a preliminary analysis released Tuesday.
The Rhodium Group, an independent economics and policy research provider, said mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus caused a "historic shock" to economic activity and ultimately caused a 10.3% drop in greenhouse gas emissions.
Most states issued stay-at-home orders early in 2020, banning non-essential businesses from being open to the public and encouraging work-from-home arrangements. With far fewer vehicles on the road for much of last year, far less greenhouse gas was expelled into the atmosphere.
Last year, the United States experienced the largest drop in emissions since just after World War II, bringing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions down to below 1990 levels. The next biggest drop since the 1940s was during the Great Recession of 2009, when emissions fell 6.3%.
The analysis determined that U.S. emissions in 2020 were 21% below 2005 levels, meaning the country's expected to exceed the Copenhagen Accord target of reducing emissions by 17% below 2005.
"However, 2020 should not in any way be considered a down payment toward the U.S. meeting its 2025 Paris Agreement target of 26-28% below 2005 levels," the Rhodium Group said.
The analysis said that though there's been "significant economic damage and human suffering" associated with the ongoing pandemic, economic activity will pick back up in 2021 with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"But without meaningful structural changes in the carbon intensity of the U.S. economy, emissions will likely rise again as well," the Rhodium Group said.