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Weihai in Shandong province, China in 2019. Photo: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Carbon dioxide emissions from China have "surged back from the coronavirus lockdown" last month, exceeding their level from May 2019, a new analysis shows.

Why it matters: China is by far the world's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Its trajectory in the coming years and decades will play a key role in global efforts to rein in — or fail to rein in — heat-trapping emissions.

What they found: "The increase in CO2 in May was driven by coal power, cement and other heavy industries, which appear to be bouncing back faster than other sectors of the economy," writes Lauri Myllyvirta in a post on Carbon Brief.

  • "This is prompting concerns about the global implications of a coal-heavy recovery in China," writes Myllyvirta, an analyst with the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

The bottom line: The analysis shows why governments' responses to the pandemic are an important climate story.

  • He notes that China's emissions on a year-to-date basis are still 6% below last year.
  • Going forward, Myllyvirta is watching how much China's economic response to the pandemic emphasizes emissions-intensive construction.

Go deeper

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Oct 5, 2020 - Economy & Business
Column / Harder Line

In a pandemic winter, dinner comes with a side of propane

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans' plans to socialize outside in colder weather — when COVID-19 will still be a threat to indoor gatherings — are prompting an expensive and environmentally questionable rush on outdoor heaters.

Why it matters: Heating outdoor patios is a big new cost for businesses, and the energy sources are almost always fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

Oct 6, 2020 - World

Negative views of China surge around the world

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Views of China in many countries have become more negative, with unfavorable views spiking in the past year as survey respondents disapproved of China's coronavirus response, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Why it matters: Beijing's global propaganda campaign earlier this year to deflect blame for the pandemic seems to have failed.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 6, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Here come the hydrogen trucks

The XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy duty truck. Photo courtesy of Hyundai

Hydrogen-powered heavy trucking is becoming more and more of a thing, even as it's unclear whether fuel cells or battery electrics will ultimately win the long race to decarbonize road freight.

Why it matters: Heavy diesel trucks and industrial vehicles are a huge source of carbon emissions worldwide, and a number of legacy automakers and startups are moving ahead with electric and hydrogen models.