New Brunswick, N.J. (April 13, 2020) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick experts are available for interviews on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and efforts to promote a greener economy and lifestyles.

“During the 2007 to 2009 recession, there was a temporary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have a similar effect,” said Anthony J. Broccoli, a distinguished professor who chairs the Department of Environmental Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and co-directs the Rutgers Climate Institute. “But keep in mind that the climate responds to the cumulative amount of greenhouse gas emissions, so any effects of these economic slumps on long-term changes in climate are too small to notice. Much more drastic reductions in emissions that are sustained into the future would be required to stabilize the climate.”

“With the global economic downturn, we may be looking at the most abrupt decline in carbon dioxide emissions in history this year, but this decline is almost immaterial,” said Robert E. Kopp, director of the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences. “The climate doesn’t care about emissions in one year. It cares about the sum total of all emissions emitted across the years, so what matters for climate change is what happens next. As we rebuild our economy, are we going to invest in a green stimulus that places the United States and the world on a path toward net-zero carbon emissions and a stable climate, or are we going to try to bail out the fossil fuel industry and put all the pieces back to where they were last year? From a climate change perspective, that’s the real question.”

“As overall greenhouse gas emissions go down with overall economic recession, households are faced with a new consumption pattern. The carbon footprint of their travel is down to almost zero for many as they stay at home, not driving or flying for weeks or months at a time,” said Rachael Shwom, an associate professor in the Department of Human Ecology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

“In the meantime, all energy, water and food consumption is contained in the house,” Shwom said. “Utilities are informing homeowners to expect that their electricity bills will likely increase up to 40 percent as they spend all their time at home. Households will be keeping homes at consistent temperatures for occupants, running televisions and electronics for working and schooling at home and cooking all the food at home. Food consumption has also shifted as food is now mostly prepared and ate in the home, and how we access our food has changed and different foods are available or scarce. In the short term, these changes will increase greenhouse gas emissions from food energy and water use coming from households and decrease emissions coming from transportation. Increased electricity, water and food consumption in the household will yield higher bills and may lead to an increased incentive to conserve in the home as household incomes are stressed.”


Broadcast interviews: Rutgers University has broadcast-quality TV and radio studios available for remote live or taped interviews with Rutgers experts. For more information, contact Neal Buccino at [email protected]

Rutgers University–New Brunswick is where Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, began more than 250 years ago. Ranked among the world’s top 60 universities, Rutgers’s flagship is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It has an internationally acclaimed faculty, 12 degree-granting schools and the Big Ten Conference’s most diverse student body.