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China’s Virus Clampdown Is Cutting Emissions, But Not for Long

  • Oil demand plummeting amid flight cancellations, quarantine
  • Government stimulus could supercharge factories in second half
An empty highway in Wuhan on Feb. 3.
An empty highway in Wuhan on Feb. 3.Photographer: Getty Images

If there’s a silver lining to the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, it’s that the world’s biggest polluter is spewing less carbon, at least for now.

Quarantines and extended holidays have idled cars and airplanes and shuttered coal mines and steel mills, some of the biggest contributors to the greenhouse gases that drive global warming. That’s going to drive a reduction in emissions early in the year, although whether it’s enough to deliver a year-on-year drop depends on how long economic activity remains depressed and what kind of stimulus measures the government enacts once the outbreak is contained.