Global carbon emissions plummeted 17 percent amid coronavirus lockdowns, researchers say

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Global stay-at-home orders have caused a dramatic plunge in carbon emissions.

Daily carbon dioxide emissions worldwide dropped 17 percent, researchers reported in a study published Tuesday in Nature, going from about 100 million metric tons to about 83 million metric tons in early April compared to a year ago.

The coronavirus pandemic shutdowns emptied out airports and freeways.

Climate scientist Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, and colleagues used daily data such as electricity demand, city congestion and home smart-meter readings to estimate emissions for 69 countries, according to the study's abstract.

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A TSA agent speaks to travelers passing through an empty security queue at Love Field airport in Dallas, Thursday, March 12, 2020, amid concerns of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

A TSA agent speaks to travelers passing through an empty security queue at Love Field airport in Dallas, Thursday, March 12, 2020, amid concerns of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Scientists then created something called a “confinement index” based on the restrictiveness of government-imposed policies in different locations and over time.

If the world goes back to a pre-coronavirus pandemic level of activity by the middle of June, this year’s emissions will be about 4 percent lower than in 2019, according to researchers. If some restrictions remain through the end of the year, 2020 emissions could still be as much as 7 percent lower.

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As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 1.5 million people were infected and at least 91,570 were killed in the U.S. from COVID-19.