Satellite-based estimates of decline and rebound in China's CO2 emissions during COVID-19 pandemic

Bo Zheng, Guannan Geng, Philippe Ciais, Steven J. Davis, Randall V. Martin, Jun Meng, Nana Wu, Frederic Chevallier, Gregoire Broquet, Folkert Boersma, Ronald van der A, Jintai Lin, Dabo Guan, Yu Lei, Kebin He, Qiang Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic have been estimated from indicators on activities like transportation and electricity generation. Here, we instead use satellite observations together with bottom-up information to track the daily dynamics of CO2 emissions during the pandemic. Unlike activity data, our observation-based analysis deploys independent measurement of pollutant concentrations in the atmosphere to correct misrepresentation in the bottom-up data and can provide more detailed insights into spatially explicit changes. Specifically, we use TROPOMI observations of NO2 to deduce 10-day moving averages of NO x and CO2 emissions over China, differentiating emissions by sector and province. Between January and April 2020, China's CO2 emissions fell by 11.5% compared to the same period in 2019, but emissions have since rebounded to pre-pandemic levels before the coronavirus outbreak at the beginning of January 2020 owing to the fast economic recovery in provinces where industrial activity is concentrated.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabd4998
JournalScience Advances
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020


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  • CHE: CO2 Human Emissions


    Project: EU research project

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