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Data: Carbon Brief, IEA and UNEP; Note: Carbon Brief analysis projects COVID-19 impact, IEA shows current emissions pathway, and UNEP’s “emissions gap” report shows needed path for the Paris Agreement’s goals; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Global carbon emissions are projected to drop an unprecedented 5.5% this year, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief, a website on climate change and energy.

Yes, but: They'll need to fall a lot more than that — not just in total, but even on an annual basis. The 2015 Paris Agreement is designed to keep global temperatures rising no more than 1.5°C over the coming decades. That would require an annual 7.6% drop in emissions.

The bottom line: A global pandemic is the worst possible way to reduce carbon emissions. Even an enormous fall in economic activity doesn't naturally reduce emissions by as much as is needed.

  • If you thought the recent 90% reduction in international travel might do the trick, consider yourself disabused. Any workable solution is going to have to be able to accommodate growth, rather than calling for shrinking the economy.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 28, 2020 - Energy & Environment

EPA watchdog puts new scrutiny on Trump's auto emission rules

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The EPA's internal watchdog is opening a probe into how the agency wrote controversial rules that weakened Obama-era carbon emissions standards for cars and light trucks.

Why it matters: The Obama-era emissions and mileage standards that extended into the mid-2020s were a pillar of the former president's climate change agenda.

1 hour ago - Health

Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

AI could end foreign-language subtitles

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AI companies are developing methods to translate and synthesize voices in ads, movies and TV.

Why it matters: The advances in voice synthesis could help fix bad movie dubbing — and they come as international content is becoming increasingly important to studios and streaming platforms as part of the globalization of entertainment.