A Resurgent Threat: The Sudden Rise in Greenhouse Gases

As people begin going outside more and returning to some sense of normalcy as the Coronavirus pandemic recedes in the United States, greenhouse gasses and other pollutants are being produced at an all time high.


David Pagan

People crowd around Times Square in early 2020, before the Coronavirus pandemic began. Fossil fuels are seen as an essential part of maintaining the facilities in our fast-paced New York City.

In 2021, levels of pollution are now being recorded at levels that exceed those from before the Coronavirus pandemic began in Spring of 2020. At the height of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when much of the world was in quarantine, emissions of carbon dioxide were 15% less than what they were pre-COVID-19. Now, as people begin to return to some sense of normalcy, greenhouse gasses and other pollutants are producing a new global threat. 

When lockdown came into full effect, non-essential commutes and air travel were paused, significantly reducing their contribution to emission levels. Transportation makes up 14% of greenhouse gas emissions, and global pollution was down as a result. As business resumes and transportation returns in full effect, we are set to reverse the environmental impact of quarantine. In fact, emissions are projected to increase by 5% globally, as new demand for coal arises in order to compensate for the growing energy need. Despite international talk of shifting towards clean energy, fossil fuels currently remain the dominant energy source.

Increased online purchases and the rise of cryptocurrency are further contributing to this issue. Cryptocurrencies have gained in popularity in recent times, with endorsements by people such as Elon Musk the current CEO and Chief Product Architect of Tesla, a company that produces electric automobiles. However, cryptocurrency transactions require massive amounts of energy in order to happen, with Bitcoin alone consuming more energy than the Netherlands or the Philippines. The majority of the energy that it uses, as with the rest of the world, relies heavily on fossil fuels.

Red, white, and blue smoke dissipates over Manhattan after a flyover by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows. The aviation industry is responsible for 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions. (David Pagan)

This adds to the urgency of taking action against climate change, as we have made little progress in repairing the world. Global emissions were rising at a rate of 1% per year before quarantine, and they will continue to do so without intervention. As the economy recovers, energy requirements are rising and there is an opportunity for the implementation of cleaner energy sourcing. President Biden released his goals for shifting towards clean energy, with a focus on reducing emissions in industry and transportation. As it stands, these plans are yet to be implemented, and fossil fuels remain in full use. 

As we await further environmental legislation, it is important to remember that we can make a difference in our own lives. Biking is an emission free way to travel around the city. Beyond recycling, we can also buy used products in order to save resources. Avoiding single-use plastics reduces the use of fossil fuels as well as waste. Anyone can make a difference, and it is important that we all make an effort to combat the escalating threat to our climate.

Despite international talk of shifting towards clean energy, fossil fuels remain the dominant energy source.