Recessions are often accompanied by a drop in carbon dioxide emissions. Then comes the rebound.

In 2009, the Great Recession pushed global emissions down almost 1%. The next year CO2 levels rose by roughly 5%, as governments around the world enacted stimulus measures to prop up their economies.

The economic devastation wrought by the novel coronavirus is anything but typical. The United States reported 6.6 million new unemployment claims last week. Three weeks ago, the previous weekly record was 695,000 in 1982.

Such staggering figures have turned conventional wisdom on its head. America’s oil tycoons, for instance, have long taken comfort in the saying that the best cure for low oil prices is low oil prices. Cheap oil generally stimulates demand. But it’s unclear when Americans will begin driving again, no matter how low prices at the pump plunge.

Uncertainty over the shape of this economic recovery makes it difficult to project future emissions.

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